PITTSBURGH: The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University reports that while women hold only 19 percent of seats in the Pennsylvania General Assembly—magnifying the underrepresentation of women in American politics—the PCWP found that when women are elected to office, they are more likely to advocate for women’s issues, are more successful at guiding legislation through the legislative process and can help create a more collaborative lawmaking environment.
In a recent study, “Few But Mighty: Women and Bill Sponsorship in the Pennsylvania General Assembly” looked to answer the question “Could Pennsylvania stand to benefit from more women legislators? And “How does the underrepresentation of women in Pennsylvania’s legislature affect policy for women in the state?”
By analyzing bill sponsorship data from the Commonwealth, the PCWP sought to shed light on the role Pennsylvania’s women legislators have been playing in the General Assembly and offer insight into how their presence has affected lawmaking in the state. The report offers a look at the unique strengths that women bring to policymaking and their impact on government is examined.
Looking at data collected from the Pennsylvania state legislative database, bill sponsorship data was collected during the 2013-14 legislative term, a time where a combined 45 women served in the General Assembly (eight Senators and 37 Representatives). Of these, only six chaired committees during a time when 3,800 bills were evaluated.
Among the study’s other highlights:
- Approximately six percent of all bills introduced could be classified as women’s issues.
- 40.6 percent of bills sponsored by women were considered women’s bills, whereas only 32.8 percent of bills sponsored by men fit into this category.
- Pennsylvania’s women legislators had an average of 18.2 co-sponsors, compared to their male colleagues who had an average of 17.1 co-sponsors.
- Female legislators are more likely to work together, even across party lines.
- Women are more likely to cosponsor bills that were sponsored by the opposing party.
- Pennsylvania’s female legislators also appear to be more effective at successfully steering legislation through the process compared to their male colleagues, with a higher percentage of their sponsored bills signed into law (9.7 percent) compared to their male counterparts (9 percent).
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. The first to focus on women’s political involvement in Pennsylvania, the Center integrates disciplinary knowledge, civic education, and coalition building while examining the intersection of women and public policy. The Center conducts candidate and advocacy trainings, offers educational programs in applied politics, and provides timely analysis on women’s issues. The Center is also home to the University’s membership in Project Pericles – a select group of liberal arts colleges and universities that have made institutional commitments to promoting participatory citizenship and social responsibility. The Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy was established in 1998 through the generosity of the Hillman Foundation, Inc. and the Maurice Falk Medical Foundation. It was then reconceived and endowed in 2003, by the Hillman Foundation.