In the News

Kane scandal casts cloud on other female politicians:’It’s such a blow to women’

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on August 20th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

The criminal charges against Kathleen Kane are unlikely to stall the success of other women candidates, but it does hurt, politicians say.

“I hate to see public officials do things that violate the public trust because it looks bad for everyone. Bonusgate affected all of us, even though it was all men. We were all affected equally,” said Bev Mackereth, a former House Republican from York County and previous Department of Human Services secretary.

She is now a senior government affairs specialist for the Ridge Policy Group.

Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, is hoping Mackereth is right and Kane’s crisis doesn’t specifically reflect poorly on women.

“I felt very badly when she was charged, even though we’re not in the same political party, because it’s such a blow to women,” she said.

While Vance, who has held elected office for nearly 40 years, said the quality of a candidate matters more than gender, she agreed that men in politics often are viewed differently than women.

“Maybe because there are so few of us,” Vance said.

“There are a lot of very good people in public service. Unfortunately, the good ones don’t always make headlines,” she added.

If there’s an unfair spotlight on women in politics, it could be because there are so few women in politics – especially in Pennsylvania, according to Dana Brown, executive director at the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

The state has never sent a woman to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, and there are no women among the 20 people who represent the state in the congressional delegation.

Just 45 women sit among the 253 elected officials in the state Legislature, though 52 percent of the voters are women.

The state has never elected a woman governor, and the late Catherine Baker Knollwas the only woman to serve as lieutenant governor.

Kane is the only woman who holds a statewide elected office, other than judges.

For the Pennsylvania attorney general to rebound from this political scandal, she has to first avoid conviction, said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics and assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University – Camden.

“Politics is still a man’s world. Breaking through is not easy for women, especially when a scandal hurts a woman’s stereotypical advantage,” she said.

That advantage is trust and integrity. Women candidates are assumed to be more trustworthy than men, and voters think twice when that trust is broken.

Research shows ethics and likability matter more for women than men, according to Dittmar.



Many believe Elsie Hillman’s impact on the community will be long lasting

Posted in In the News on August 12th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Fond remembrances of social and political activist Elsie Hillman continued to be expressed Wednesday, a day after her passing at age 89, with many voicing their belief that her impact on the community will be long-lasting.

Of particular note were the many people who recounted stories of how Mrs. Hillman — despite the wealth and influence she shared with her husband, Henry — stood with those in need.

Sometimes, she sat with them.

George Fechter of Mount Washington was a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Council with Mrs. Hillman. Three years ago, at a large meeting of the State Cancer Coalition, Mr. Fechter said, the executive director expressed disappointment that Mrs. Hillman could not attend.

“I am here,” came a voice from the back of the room.

The director promptly invited Mrs. Hillman to take the seat reserved for her in the front row.

“Elsie responded she wanted to sit in the back with the cancer survivors,” Mr. Fechter said.

“Elsie Hillman was about people and what was fair,” said Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. “She is known for taking stands that had caused some people to quiver — in support of African-Americans, in support of women, in support of gays and lesbians. If they were people and they were not being treated fairly, Elsie was on their side.”

She always was.

In May 1969, Republican John K. Tabor was running for mayor of Pittsburgh, and the local GOP scheduled a rally at the North Side Elks Club.

The problem was that the club was “whites only,” and the Catholic Interracial Council sent a letter of protest to Mrs. Hillman, chairwoman of the county party. Mrs. Hillman advised Mr. Tabor to instead attend a rally at a cafe on Foreland Street and asked members of the party to convene there.

The leaders’ vote to meet at the Elks Club as planned was 10-0 with two abstentions.

“We’ve been having Republican meetings at the North Side Elks for 30 years, and will continue to hold them there,” said J. Edward Waldron, chairman of the 27th Ward.

Mrs. Hillman caused a stir by making sure the public knew about the issue. She would cause such friction in the community and in her political party again and again.

“You can’t say that she did not care about the repercussions, because Elsie was strategic in everything she did,” Ms. Bush said. “So if Elsie said it, and she knew that it wasn’t going to play out well, she said it that way on purpose because she didn’t want it to play out well. She wanted to ruffle whoever’s feathers she was ruffling.”

Former city Councilman Sala Udin worked with Mrs. Hillman on a number of issues, including the “Save Our Summer” project to keep the city’s swimming pools open in 2004 and a task force formed to address Pittsburgh’s financial plight.

“She was a worker bee, and she kept everybody else working,” Mr. Udin said. “She was easy to work with if you came to work, because she was going to put you to work. If you just came to put your name on the letterhead, then you were going to have a problem with Elsie.”



Obituary: Elsie Hillman, philanthropist and GOP pillar,dies at 89

Posted in In the News on August 12th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Dan Majors / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Elsie Hilliard Hillman cared.

Her causes came in all sizes, from underwriting a public ice-skating rink in PPG Plaza to the millions of dollars that she and her husband, the industrialist Henry Hillman, donated to the fight against cancer.

A philanthropist and political activist whose lifetime of civic devotion made her a beloved figure in Western Pennsylvania and beyond, Mrs. Hillman died Tuesday morning of complications of old age at Shadyside Hospital. She was 89.

Once described as “the Grand Duchess of the Pennsylvania Republican Party,” Mrs. Hillman approached politics from the perspective of promoting social causes and was instrumental in the election of centrist politicians on the local, state and national level, her favorite campaign being that of her friend, former President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Bush, whom Mrs. Hillman helped get elected in 1988, described Mrs. Hillman to the Post-Gazette as “a wonderful gal” and praised her for being “amazingly active in politics and her community” and for being “always concerned about making a contribution.”

Mr. Bush’s wife, Barbara, once described Mrs. Hillman as “a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Auntie Mame.”

“Elsie Hillman, our dear friend, broke the mold,” Mr. Bush said. “She was full of wisdom, full of energy and full of humor. She was a tireless political activist, and a wonderful, caring human being. I was blessed to have her on my side. Barbara and I loved her.”

As chairwoman of the state GOP and a member of the Republican National Committee from 1978 to 1996, Mrs. Hillman also lent instrumental support to Republican governors William Scranton, Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, senators John Heinz and Arlen Specter, and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

Yet her circle of influence was not limited to Republicans. Labor leaders considered her a friend of the working class. She counted longtime Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster and Pittsburgh Mayors Tom Murphy and Sophie Masloff, all Democrats, among her closest friends. Democratic Mayor Joseph Barr, who served from 1959 to 1970, once told Mr. Foerster, “Anytime you need help of any kind, you go see Elsie.”


The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics to host annual women’s leadership institute May 31-June 5, 2015

Posted in In the News, Press Release on June 1st, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

PITTSBURGH– The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University will host the annual National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership™ Pennsylvania program, a weeklong intensive institute for women college students from colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania. NEW Leadership 2015 will be held Sunday, May 31, through Friday, June 5, and will bring 43 students from 30 different colleges and universities across Pennsylvania to the Chatham University campus.

The program cultivates the next generation of young women leaders by focusing on the role of women in politics and policy making in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Modeled after a program established by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the institute features such topics as leadership in a diverse society, current and historical approaches to women’s participation in politics, networking with Pennsylvania women leaders, and the development of action skills in advocacy and leadership.

Read more

Women finding success in statewide judge votes

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on April 14th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

April 12, 2015 12:00 AM

By Chris Potter/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


There are 24 judges sitting on the state Superior Court and Commonwealth Court: 17 of them are women. And depending on the outcome of this year’s Supreme Court race, women could end up holding a majority of elected judgeships on all three statewide appeal courts.

What does that mean for the political status of women in Pennsylvania, where they have a notoriously hard time winning elected office?

“I think it means maybe I should run for Superior Court judge,” said Susan Frietsche, a lawyer with the Women’s Law Project.

Observers cite several reasons for why women have had so much success in such contests. For starters, there’s a steady supply of candidates: Women have made up a majority of law-school graduates since the early 1990s, noted Heather Arnet, who heads the Women and Girls Project.

Judicial candidates also rarely have to overcome the advantages of incumbency, like superior name recognition and fundraising, that officeholders enjoy in other branches of government. (Once elected, incumbent judges only have to run for retention — a straight-up-or-down vote — every 10 years, until they retire or are removed.)

“Female candidates do well in open races, where they aren’t competing against traditional party support,” said Ms. Arnet.

But even in judicial races, that’s more true in some cases than others.

“Pennsylvanians will tell you that women do well in judicial races, but it’s really only on those intermediate statewide courts,” said Dana Brown, executive director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Women do much worse when running at the county level, she said: Once those seats are considered, women hold just over one in four seats on the Pennsylvania bench — barely an improvement over the legislature, where one in five officeholders are female.

“There’s something unique happening on the statewide level,” Ms. Brown said. “It’s really a puzzle.”

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Run, she said: Cokie Roberts on the dearth of women in politics

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on April 3rd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics did Pittsburghers a favor Wednesday by bringing to the city author and journalist Cokie Roberts.

Ms. Roberts — formally Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts (her brother couldn’t pronounce “Corinne,” so she became “Cokie”) — is a senior news analyst for National Public Radio and the author or co-author of five books. From Louisiana, Ms. Roberts’ family was American political royalty. Her father, Hale Boggs, was a U.S. House majority leader and her mother, Lindy Boggs, was a House member for 18 years and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Her topic in a speech was consistent with a goal of the organization that invited her to Pittsburgh, that the United States would benefit from greater participation by women in elected political life at the national, state and local levels. Ms. Roberts quoted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said that body “is so much better because of women … they have changed the dynamic of the Senate.” Although women now occupy 20 of the seats in the 100-person chamber, that’s still a small percentage since they make up half the population.

Ms. Roberts noted that Pennsylvania’s record is particularly weak. The state has a 20-member congressional delegation — two senators, 18 House members and none of them female. “Run,” she urged women in the audience.

Read More at the

‘Women in Politics’ moderator reveals sobering stats about state’s lack of diversity

Posted in In the News on April 3rd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Barbara Miller
Staff Writer

CANONSBURG – Pennsylvania ranks 39th of 50 state Legislatures for its proportion of women.

There are nine women out of 50 state senators and 36 women among 203 state House members, making up just 17.8 percent of the total. Thirty-eight of 67 counties have no women serving as county commissioner, a member of a county council or as a county executive.

“There should be gasps all across the room,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, Pittsburgh, at a “Women in Politics” forum Thursday night at Southpointe.

In a wide-ranging discussion, women who have overcome this dismal record talked about what it takes to beat the statistics.

In 1995, Diana Irey Vaughan was the first woman elected Washington County commissioner.

In the same year, Katherine B. Emery was the second woman elected to the Washington County bench, and in January, she became the Washington County’s second female president judge. In 2012, Pam Snyder was the first woman to represent Washington and Greene county in the General Assembly. And last November, Camera Bartolotta became the first woman to represent Washington County in the state Senate.

Irey Vaughan revealed when she ran for state treasurer in 2012, she introduced herself to her opponent, Democratic incumbent Rob McCord. “He looked me up and down and said, ‘Now I know why my buddy said, ‘If this was a beauty contest, you’ll lose, Rob,’” commenting Irey Vaughn was “really pretty.” McCord won another term as treasurer, but pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court to extortion in connection with his unsuccessful run for governor. He is awaiting sentencing.

Bartolotta said Republicans approached her in 2012 about running against Democratic state Rep. Peter Daley, but it was not long after her husband died from a four-year battle with lymphoma, and she declined.

The party again asked her to run two years later, this time, for state Senate. Her daughter, who was in college, came home from Ohio University and mentioned a sorority sister was going to be embarking on a mission trip.

Guatemala or Mexico sprang to Bartolotta’s mind as possible destinations, but she was shocked when she heard where the student was headed: Monessen.

“That was it for me,” said Bartolotta, a Monongahela resident. She announced a run which culminated in the defeat of state Sen. Tim Solobay, a Canonsburg Democrat.

Emery was a school board member, county solicitor and delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention which nominated Bill Clinton in his successful run for the White House. Sensing a sea-change in county government in 1995 as Frank Mascara departed for Congress, she thought of running for commissioner but instead focused on a judgeship.

“I turned 40 and became both a mother and a judge in a span of two months,” she told her audience. Emery encouraged women who are thinking of breaking into politics to run, as she did, for school board or try for a local appointed office such as membership on a zoning board.

Snyder warned that women in politics must develop a thick skin. “The social media makes it worse,” she said. “You know who it’s really hard on? My family. My husband, my kids” and even grandchildren. Facebook, Twitter and the online comment posts on local news stories can all bring out viciousness, she and Emery pointed out.

They also suggested that in this local election year, someone who might want to get her feet wet should volunteer for a campaign.

After the conclusion of the discussion, one audience member, Kelley Hoover Heckathorne, director of brokerage services for Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services Inc., Pittsburgh, said, “There are women in politics in Washington County, and I wanted to hear why and how they got into it. It empowers us. I think it was very inspiring.” Read More at

Pennsylvania has a dearth of female political leaders

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on March 18th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

It is Women’s History Month and we have much to celebrate. Women continue to enlarge their roles as advocates, inventors, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists and scientists — and the list goes on.

But not one woman belongs to Pennsylvania’s 20-member congressional delegation. Only one woman serves in an elected statewide office, Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Pennsylvania has never elected a woman governor or U.S. senator. Pennsylvania’s Legislature has plateaued in the proportion of women representing the state at 17.8 percent (45 women out of 253 seats). Only 27 percent of our judges are women. Women make up only 19 percent of municipal executives.

There are bright spots locally in Pittsburgh City Council (four of nine districts are represented by women) and Allegheny County Council (women occupy five of 15 seats, both district and at-large).

These may be surprising statistics to many, given that girls and young women not only have closed the gender gap in educational achievement, they have pulled ahead. According to the U.S. Department of Education, women now are earning nearly 60 percent of bachelor degrees.

Girls and young women also rank ahead of their male counterparts on many indicators of civic engagement, including volunteering, voting and membership in community associations. Higher Education Research Institute surveys show that female college students spend more time than male students helping others in need and take more courses that involve community service. Women are overrepresented in service programs such as AmeriCorps and Teach for America.

These achievements in education and love for public service have not closed the gender gap in electoral politics, however. The Higher Education Research Institute also found that male students were more likely to say they have worked with political organizations and expressed their political opinions by contacting elected officials or members of the media. So, while college women are outperforming college men on a number of civic-engagement measures, they are falling short on turning that engagement into political service.

The relative dearth of women serving in public office and of young women interested in electoral politics is worrisome. And that is why the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University seeks to educate and empower women for public leadership.


Ready to Run Helps Women Candidates Prepare for the 2015 Municipal Elections

Posted in In the News, Press Release, Women in PA on January 22nd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

PITTSBURGH: To help address historically low levels of representation of women in Pennsylvania government, The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University is holdings its 4th annual Ready to Run™ Campaign Training for Women on Saturday, January 31st at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

According to PCWP data, at the state and local government level women comprise only:

• 17.8 percent of state legislators (representatives and senators)
• 19 percent of municipal executives (e.g. mayors)
• 37.5 percent of county officials (e.g. councilmembers, etc.)
• 35 percent of elected school board members
• 27 percent of the state’s more than 1300 various elected judicial offices

At the same time, there is only one woman serving as a statewide elected official and none at all in the state’s congressional delegation. Research shows that when women run, they win at the same rates as men. If the state is going to increase the number of women holding public office, it needs more women candidates.

“The 2015 municipal election primary will be held May 19th, and the final day to file to appear on the ballot is March 10th. This is the first step to November, where many local offices are on the ballot in the statewide municipal election. These local elective offices touch so many important aspects of our everyday lives—from education policy to public transportation to taxes. With Ready to Run™, we want to make sure women are ready to take a seat at the table at all levels of government” states PCWP Executive Director, Dana Brown.

The 2015 Ready to Run™ training is $65. This year’s training includes a special pre-conference networking and informational event: “Women of Color in Pennsylvania Politics” from 6-8 p.m. Friday, January 30th, which is included in the cost of the workshop. Information and registration

The PCWP supports women considering seeking elective office with the Ready to Run™ Campaign Training for Women programs. Since 2012, the PCWP has hosted these bi-partisan campaign trainings in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, giving women with an interest in seeking political office the education, insights, and skills they need to embark on a successful campaign.

More than 250 women have participated in the Ready to Run™ program in Pennsylvania in the past three years the program has been offered. In 2014 alone, the program had 23 alumnae who sought various offices in the 2014 primary and general elections, including state legislators and several congressional candidates. Many program alumnae pursued a start in partisan politics by seeking a spot on their party’s state committee.

“We know that running for office is not always intuitive, which is why the Ready to Run™ program exists: to demystify the process and give women the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to be well-prepared for the challenge,” PCWP Executive Director Dana Brown said. “It is a powerful head start.”

For more information about the PCWP at Chatham University or Ready to Run™ Campaign Training for Women, please contact Dana Brown, Executive Director at 412-365-2725 or

Why aren’t more women serving in the PA Legislature

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 8th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Jan Murphy | 

Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state yet it ranks 39th in the nation for the percentage of women elected to its state Legislature.

Why don’t more women run for Legislature? Here is what some midstate female legislators have to say about that:

Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Cleona, who is beginning her seventh two-year term in the House: “So many things have changed for women over the years. There are more opportunities for women to be effective and develop professionally and choose career paths that were not always available to women. Our job is to make this opportunity at this level in public service more attractive. My concern is women who are highly educated and generally talented and intellectually capable are not choosing to serve.”

Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Lower Allen Twp., a four-term incumbent: “It can be intimidating for women – and men – to run. But in many cases, trying to get women to put their name on the ballot is little more difficult but it’s doable.”