Women in PA

Advancing women’s role in politics is still a work in progress

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on March 4th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer

In a lot of ways, it’s become a woman’s world. More women than ever before are entering the workforce, they are earning college degrees at a faster pace than men and they are stepping into leadership roles more often.

But you can’t help but notice that women are often missing when you turn on a news conference from Capitol Hill, watch senators debate a bill in Harrisburg or show up to a township supervisors meeting.

And despite the emergence over the past decade of several high-profile women in elected positions — from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin, many local female leaders said it seems politics is still very much a man’s world.

Why? And what does it mean?


Data compiled by the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics show that women hold less than 16 percent of the seats in Congress and about 24 percent of the positions in state legislatures.


Ninety nations around the world have more women in their national legislature than the United States. Rwanda, Cuba and Sweden are among the countries ranked in the top five.


Things don’t look much better at the state level.

Read More at lancasteronline.com

‘Boot camp’ teaches women how to run for political office

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on February 3rd, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

Nurse practitioner Suzanne Colilla has thought about running for public office.

“I think it’s important for nurses who are bedside experts to have a seat at the table when we talk about health policy issues,” she said.

But trying to win a local election raises a host of questions: How much money do you need to raise? How do you get the support of your party in the primary? How do you run a campaign if you’ve never done it before?

Ms. Colilla and about 40 other women — and a handful of men — spent a recent snowy Saturday in a Chatham University conference room learning just that.

“Ready to Run” is a campaign school aimed at women, a full-day boot camp complete with tips from women elected officials, advice on navigating local party systems, lessons on public speaking and an outline on the basics of fundraising and planning a campaign — plus a big dose of pep talks and confidence-building. The training is sponsored by Chatham’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Jennifer Stergion, an attorney from Buffalo, N.Y., said the event attracted her because it is non-partisan and focuses on the practical aspects of a campaign. Other campaign tutorial events she had considered attending in the past were more focused on helping candidates who, for example, were committed to an anti-abortion or abortion rights position.

“This is more of a nuts-and-bolts event and less policy-driven,” Ms. Stergion said.

Indeed, apart from a brief but spirited disagreement between Republican and Democratic panelists over the campaign of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the day — while filled with talk of politics — was remarkably issue-neutral. Discussions focused on everything from what to expect in a campaign to nitty-gritty details such as how to best speak to a television camera and how to split your time between fundraising and meeting with voters.

“In the current political environment, everything is so divisive. It’s nice to be able to just focus on the mechanics of it,” said Ms. Colilla, of Washington County, who said she learned the most from a panel discussion about Republican and Democratic party infrastructures and how best to approach them.

Pennsylvania generally ranks poorly in terms of its number of women elected officials — 39th nationally. Experts have blamed the state’s low ranking on everything from its highly structured and institutionalized political parties to full-time Legislature, which can make it harder for a working mother to serve in office.

“When we have more women at the table, bipartisanship increases, transparency increases, [new] issues come to light, different perspectives on old issues come to light,” said Dana Brown, executive director of Chatham’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Women make up Pa.’s political minority, say gender isn’t issue

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 21st, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Tom Fontaine

Women make up about half of the population but remain grossly under-represented in key political offices that shape policy and render legal decisions at the federal, state and local levels, said politicians and political experts.

“It’s been a slow climb here,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, which is hosting a campaign-training seminar for women in Shadyside on Saturday and another one in Philadelphia next month.

Last year’s seminar in Pittsburgh drew about 80 women.

Women hold one of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats and 17 percent of the seats in the state Legislature. One of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices and nine of its 60 Common Pleas president judges are women.

About 38 percent of countywide offices in the 10-county area surrounding Pittsburgh are held by women.

A woman has never represented Pennsylvania as a U.S. senator or governor. Democrat Kathleen Kane in 2012 became the first woman elected state attorney general.

Brown said she thinks 2014 could be a ground-breaking year for Pennsylvania women in politics, noting three are running for governor on the Democratic ticket and at least three of the state’s congressional races could be in play for women, including one featuring New Kensington’s Erin McClelland in the newly constituted 12th District that includes Beaver County and parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Washington counties.

Women in politics: moving forward or backward?

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on June 3rd, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

By John Guerriero, Erie Times-News

The speaker stepped to the microphone to address Erie City Council.

“And, you, the city fathers,” the speaker said, stopping short as he made eye contact with then-Councilwoman Joyce Savocchio in the early 1980s. ” … and city mother.”

Savocchio, the first elected councilwoman in the city’s history, encountered another awkward case of gender wordplay when a citizen at a public event asked, “Should we call you mayor or mayoress?”

Read more:  http://goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20130602%2FNEWS02%2F306029933

Why are Pennsylvania women hard to find in politics?

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 13th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — You can’t help but notice it if you attend a House committee hearing, a news conference in the Capitol, or watch senators in session debating a bill: There’s not a lot of women around here.

The Pennsylvania Legislature can seem at times very much a man’s world, with only 17.8 percent of the state’s General Assembly (37 of 203 House members and 8 of 50 senators) composed of women, according to figures compiled by Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

“That is truly disproportionate in representing the women of the commonwealth,” said Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mount Washington, the lone female representative from Allegheny County. “People are shocked when they hear that number.”

Kathleen Kane says her win ‘expanded the boundaries for women in Pennsylvania’

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on November 12th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News

Standing before a raucous crowd at the Radisson Hotel in Scranton with family members gathered behind her, Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane wrapped up her victory speech on Tuesday night by pointing out ground she broke that night.

More important to her than being the first Democrat to be elected as the state’s attorney general, it was being its first female elected chief law enforcement officer that she took a moment to highlight.

“It is 2012,” Kane said. “I will tell you that we have expanded the boundaries for women in Pennsylvania. … We have made sure that there is no place that we can’t go and there is nothing that we can’t do. We have made sure that we can raise our families and we can have our careers.”

By becoming the first woman to be elected to that statewide office, Kane, a mother of two and former Lackawanna County deputy prosecutor, broke down the door of one of the few remaining offices that a woman has yet to hold in Pennsylvania. The governor’s office and U.S. Senate seats are the others.

Read More at pennlive.com

Pennsylvania Ranks 28 for Equal Pay

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on April 17th, 2012 by admin – 3 Comments

by Mark Nootbaar & Tim Camerato – 90.5 Essential Public Radio

With Equal Pay Day upon us, a new study finds not much has changed since the inception of the event in 1996. On average, women in Pennsylvania make 77.4 cents for every dollar men are paid according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The number was at 73.8 cents in 1996.

“At that rate we are estimating that the pay gap would not close until over 40 years from now,” said the partnership’s Director of Workplace Fairness Sarah Crawford.

The gap grows for women of color. The study finds African American women are paid 70 cents for every dollar men make, “and that amounts to a loss of over $14,000 per year. And Latino women in the state fare even worse… with pay being 57 cents on the dollar,” said Crawford. That, she said, amounts to $20,000 a year.

Equal Pay Day is held around this time in an effort to show how long into the new year women must work to catch up with what men made in the previous year. The study tries to put a different yardstick to the gap. It estimates that if women made as much as men they would be able to purchase an additional 2,690 gallons of gas or pay mortgage and utilities for an additional eight months.

The Gap Grows for Mothers

The study from the National Partnership for Women and Families reports a “motherhood bias” that goes beyond dropping pay for mothers. “Where women with children are generally paid less than women without children, what we see with men is quite the opposite,” said Crawford. “Men with children actually on average are paid a bit more than their counterparts without children.”

The partnership is pushing for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the group says would close important loopholes in the nearly half century old Equal Pay Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act was passed in the the U.S. House in each of the last two sessions but fell two votes short in the Senate in 2010. The measure has not come up for a vote this year.


2012 Election: Add Women, Change Everything

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on March 22nd, 2012 by admin – 2 Comments


By Laurie Kretchmar

2012 is a pivotal election year for a number of reasons, not least of which is the opportunity for a record number of women to be elected to state legislatures and Congress; the 2012 Project on the importance of more female voices in government

Not one state – not California, not New York – has women serving in half the seats in its state legislature. California’s is 28 percent, while New York’s is only 21 percent. South Carolina trails the nation at 9 percent.

Women are best represented in Colorado, where they hold 41 percent of seats. Does the presence of women make a difference? Research says it does. Women tend to bring different agendas, content and processes. As The White House Project memorably says: “Add women; change everything.”

I asked Karen Middleton, president of Emerge America, a Democratic training organization, about serving as a state legislator in Colorado.

“I saw strong bipartisan support for some key issues affecting women and children,” Middleton said. “Laws around veterans’ families, domestic violence, cancer screening — we did great work in these areas. Women on both sides of the aisle led the way on important legislation, such as re-purposing coal plants with natural gas turbines–a new law that helped the environment and kept energy-related jobs in the state.”

Patricia Lindner, a Republican who served in the Illinois legislature, said, “Women are more willing to cut the partisan bickering and work with all sides to accomplish goals.”

To inspire more women to consider politics, the nonpartisan 2012 Project, where I work as media director, is working with dozens of allies including The White House Project, Emerge America and Rachel’s Network. The goal is to educate people about the low numbers of women in office today and ask accomplished women to consider running for state legislatures and Congress.

As USA Today reports, this year is a potentially record year for electing women – if women run. There are open seats in state legislatures and Congress due to redistricting in every state, 13 states with term limits and an expected presidential election year turnout.

Women and newcomers do best running for open seats. Of the 24 new women elected to Congress in 1992, known as the “Year of the Woman,” 22 won open seats. There is vast room for improvement. In 20 states today, zero women serve in congressional delegations.

What if this isn’t your year? You love the idea of electing more women, but the moment isn’t right for you. What can you do?

  • Help The 2012 Project to get the word out about the opportunities that remain.
  • Reach out to women in your community who may not have considered running. Remember, women often wait to be asked to run; issue that invitation yourself as a citizen who’d like to see better government. Consider women from backgrounds and professions that haven’t been well represented in government, and look for women of color, who can also bring distinctive perspectives.
  • Refer any women you think would make great candidates to The 2012 Project at info@the2012project.us. We will provide women interested in exploring a candidacy with a roadmap to launch a successful campaign.
  • Support women candidates. Whatever your own political leanings, find a woman candidate you admire and boost her candidacy, whether as a donor or volunteer. Check out this regularly updated list of women running for Congress and statewide executive offices (with links to candidate websites in many cases), or find out who’s running for the legislature or local offices in your state.
  • When it comes time to cast your ballot, vote for the women candidates of your choice.

Female candidates for Congress on upward trend

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 30th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

WASHINGTON – The roster of congressional candidates for this year’s elections is taking shape and one trend is emerging: 2012 could be another “Year of the Woman” in American politics.


Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has tried to encourage more women to run for congressional office.

By J. Scott Applewhite, AP
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has tried to encourage more women to run for congressional office.


The moniker was famously applied in 1992 when four women were elected to the Senate, a high watermark for the chamber that has never been surpassed.

This year, however, a notable number of candidates are running in potentially competitive races in both the House of Representatives and Senate that could send a wave of female lawmakers to Washington in November. If so, it would reverse the 2010 election trend that saw the first dip in female representation in the House since 1978 and only sent one woman, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, to the Senate.

In the 2012 Senate lineup, there are 10 female candidates — four Republicans and six Democrats — seeking office. Of the six states with female Democratic candidates — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin — none has ever elected a woman to the Senate.

Republican women are running in Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico.

“Both parties have made a concerted effort to attract more women candidates,” said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst for the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. Taylor said campaign operations are cognizant of seeking out diverse candidates and female candidates can be particularly appealing because independent female voters are often a decisive voting bloc in elections.

Leading female lawmakers — including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who runs the Senate Democrats‘ campaign operation — have made concerted efforts to recruit more women to run.

The Democratic congressional campaign operation is fielding candidates in 76 House races they hope to make competitive, and about half of those districts have female candidates.

“Many of us view gender parity as a goal for Congress,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who has helped recruit candidates this year.

Democratic candidates include Val Demings, an African-American woman who was Orlando’s first female police chief; Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois; and Iowan Christie Vilsack, the wife of former governor and current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., who chairs Democrats’ recruitment, said women can be very effective messengers when so many Americans are worried about kitchen-table issues affecting family finances and when voters increasingly say they want lawmakers to compromise and get things done.

“They (women) come as problem solvers,” Schwartz said.

Republicans agree, but have had less success in recruiting women to run for the GOP. House Republicans are fielding seven female candidates in potentially competitive races in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.

“Bottom line is these women will make great representatives,” says Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the House Republican campaign operation. “Not only do they come from different backgrounds and professions, in many households, they control the family budget.”

Among female GOP candidates are former representative Heather Wilson, a Senate candidate in New Mexico, and Ann Wagner, a former Missouri Republican Party chairwoman and a former ambassador to Luxembourg, who is seeking a House seat.




Article by Susan Davis, USA Today

Click here to open article on USAToday.com


Conference Readies Women to Run for Political Office

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 23rd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment
By Deanna Garcia
(Deanna Garcia/Essential Public Radio)
Executive Speech and Presentation Coach Deb Sofield talked about the art of public speaking.
Women outnumber men in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but their numbers are few when it comes to elected office be it on the local, state or federal level. A national movement is trying to change that by teaching women about the political process. One such event was held in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Pennsylvania Near the Bottom

Pennsylvania ranks 42 in the nation when it comes to women holding elected office. Out of 50 state senators, 11 are women, and out of 203 representatives, 33 are women. The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University aims to increase the female presence in politics and public policy through events such as Saturday’s Ready to Run Conference.

“We need to run campaigns that are very viable, very professional, that are very excellent campaigns that people can remember whether we win or lose,” said Valerie McDonald Roberts, Manager for the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate. She also held the office when it was an elected position.

Roberts was on a panel at the event, which drew about 75 women from Allegheny County and surrounding areas. She said there are several reasons there aren’t more women in politics.

“We have been marginalized for so many years. We are dealing with a deficit, a structural deficit that has been rolling over year after year after year with women and minorities not being at the seat of the table,” Roberts said.

That was the prevailing feeling in the room — that breaking into the so-called “Good Old Boys” system is extremely hard to do, but not impossible if women can learn to be heard and learn to be confident.

Women attending the Ready to Run conference
(Deanna Garcia/Essential Public Radio)
Saturday’s Ready to Run conference at Chatham University was one of several events around the county intended to encourage more women to run for public office.

“To be aggressive, to be focused, to not only want a seat at the table, but to take it. It is not going to be given to you, you need to know how to take it just like men have for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said Roberts.

But, it seems that every campaign season there’s an aggressive woman who ends up getting labeled negatively as a ball-buster, witch, or something that rhymes with ‘witch,’ but Roberts said that’s just become a reality in politics.

“We have to understand that there is a double standard, we are not going to defeat that double standard, but we need to get around that double standard,” she said.

Money Talks

Panelist Deb Sofield is an executive speech and presentation coach. She said in the political arena, reality is harsh. When a male candidate cries, people see him as sensitive; when a woman cries, she’s labeled as overly emotional or crazy. While there was a lot of talk about institutional challenges, and that double standard, the main obstacle facing women who want to run for office is money.

“It’s an expensive game. You’ve gotta build your network then make your net work. What you have to do is find some way for people to financially put you where you need to be,” said Sofield.

An afternoon session was focused solely on the financial aspect of running for office. Only a handful of the women in attendance are currently thinking of running for office soon, and they all expressed discomfort with asking for money. That is true of Stephanie Gallagher. She’s currently a supervisor of Buffalo Township, Washington County, but is considering a run for state office. She says she knows she has to overcome her reluctance to ask for money.

“It’s a very humbling experience. You don’t really want to ask people. You’re hoping they just know you need it and that’s not always the case. The key is to ask,” she said.

Knowing the Game

Panelists touched on a wide variety of topics, including body language, speech patterns, ways to stand, and hand shaking. Organizers wouldn’t allow reporting of the actual panel and discussions in an effort to allow the speakers and participants to feel comfortable being as open and honest as possible.

Overall, Gallagher said the experience was an empowering one. “You just have to stand your ground and know your beliefs and just do what you feel is the right thing to do,” she said. “I’m ready to stand a bigger ground and push more positive action to another level.”

The overriding message of the day to the women was to know what they’re talking about, and that if women want to be taken seriously, they have to do their homework before stepping into the public eye.

“Don’t go out there because someone says you should run for office and you think it’s a good idea. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. If you don’t do due diligence and don’t do an assessment to see if everything is feasible, you don’t want to embarrass yourself, you don’t want to get out there and cause embarrassment for other women,” said Valerie McDonald Roberts.

Ready to Run events will be held in other U.S. cities in the next few months, mostly with the goal of jump starting some campaigns for the 2012 election cycle and beyond.