A Pink Wave in Pennsylvania Politics in 2018, but Men Will Still Hold 75 Percent of State Legislative Offices

PITTSBURGH – While 2018 saw record gains for women winning elective office in the Commonwealth, when Pennsylvania’s new congressional delegation and General Assembly are sworn in, roughly three out of every four will still be men, reports the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

The two most recent sessions of Congress (2014-2018) had no women from Pennsylvania represented, but a historic record number of women filed to run for seats in the May 2018 Primary Election (20). Nine women were on the General Election ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives (none for U.S. Senate, where a woman has never served from Pennsylvania), and four, all Democrats, won. While a 400 percent increase in seats held by women is great progress, men will still comprise 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.

“We’ve had so few women serve in Congress from Pennsylvania—never more than two at a time—so to go from sending zero to sending four, that feels like real progress,” said Dr. Dana Brown, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University. “But,” she added, “we shouldn’t let this distract us from how underrepresented women continue to be in politics.”

Similarly, there were a record number of women candidates for the state’s General Assembly in 2018. One hundred thirty-four women candidates were on the General Election ballot and 62 of those women won their contests. As a result, the State Senate will now have 12 women (24 percent), and women in the State House netted 10 additional seats (from 42 to 52, now 26 percent).

Brown is encouraged. “We’re inching closer to a critical mass of women in state legislative office. We know that’s when meaningful change for women can happen. Culture changes. Legislative priorities address the needs of women in a more meaningful way. We need to keep this momentum going,” she said. “At the PCWP, we are proud to report that of the women being sworn into office in Harrisburg and Washington, DC, six are alums of our non-partisan Ready to Run Campaign Training program.” (The six women are: Congresswoman-elect Chrissy Houlahan; State Rep. Mary Jo Daley; State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald; State Rep. Val Gaydos, State Rep. Sara Innamorato; State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky).

The PCWP is committed to supporting the 2018 momentum of women’s candidacies into 2019’s municipal elections. In February, women planning or considering a run for any level of office or those interested in supporting women candidates can participate in one the Center’s two non-partisan Ready to Run™ campaign trainings for women. For more information, visit http://www.chatham.edu/pcwp/education/readytorun/.

The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action. For more information, visit www.pcwp.org.

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