In the News

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

Posted in In the News, Press Release on January 3rd, 2019 by admin – Be the first to comment

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

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



‘A Really Good Day for Women In Politics’: Women Make History During Midterm Election

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on November 7th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Jon Delano

It’s been 98 years since women gained the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution.

But since then women have had a difficult time getting elected to legislative bodies.

This year was different.

“Yesterday was a really good day for women in politics, and from our standpoint, a great day for the Commonwealth and a great day for America to have greater gender diversity,” says Dana Brown, director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

For the first time ever, not one, but four, women were elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.

Read more at CBS/KDKA

Election 2018 marked the Year of the Woman in Pennsylvania

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on November 7th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Sarah Anne Hughes

The “Year of the Woman” has returned to Pennsylvania.

It happened first in 1992, when a record number of female candidates ran for office and won in reaction to Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination and the Anita Hill hearings. Over the next quarter century, the number of women in Congress and state legislatures continued to grow — but a considerable gender gap has remained.

On Nov. 6, with a record number of women on the ballot, that gap significantly narrowed in Pennsylvania.

The commonwealth will send four Democratic women to Congress next year, all from the Philadelphia suburbs: Madeleine Dean (District 4), Mary Gay Scanlon (District 5), Chrissy Houlahan (District 6), and Susan Wild (District 7).

Never before has Pennsylvania sent that many women to the U.S. House at the same time. There are currently zero women in the state’s congressional delegation.

Numbers don’t get much better in the state General Assembly, where just 49 of the 253 members are women. But representation will improve in both chambers next year.

Five female state senators won re-election, while five female non-incumbents definitively won their races, including Lindsey Williams in Allegheny County. As of Wednesday afternoon, Democratic Rep. Tina Davis was trailing Republican Sen. Tommy Tomlinson by a slim margin in the 6th District.

That means at least 12 women will serve in the Pa. Senate next year, up from seven.

Democratic women weren’t the only ones who made gains in Pennsylvania.

Eight Republican women who aren’t incumbents won state House seats, including three that Democrats hoped to pick up in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Republicans Lori Mizgorski (30th District), Natalie Mihalek (40th District), and Valerie Gaydos (44th District) each bested a female opponent and are now bound for Harrisburg.

And while female Democrats running for House seats in Southwestern Pa. did not win, they fared “pretty darn well” in traditionally Republican areas, according to Jennie Sweet-Cushman, assistant director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Read more at The Incline

For first time in 125 years, woman appointed Pennsylvania’s state forester

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on June 12th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment
By Daniel Craig

For the first time in more than a century, Pennsylvania has a woman as state forester.

The Bureau of Forestry announced Monday that Ellen M. Shultzabarger has been chosen to lead the state agency. She is the first female to hold the position in the department’s 125-year history.

As state forester, Shultzabarger is tasked with overseeing Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of state forestland, as well as conserving native wild plants and other natural resources.

Shultzabarger, 41, of Lancaster, has worked for the bureau for 14 years in various positions. She most recently served as Chief of Conservation Science and Ecological Resources, and has led a number of projects at the bureau during her tenure, including oil and gas management and handling invasive species.

“I will strive to connect people to the outdoors, manage the state forests entrusted to us, and increase awareness of the importance and benefits of trees and forests,” Shultzabarger said in a news release.

Female representation in Pennsylvania state government is noticeably low compared to the general population, as is the case in many states across the country. Pennsylvania has never had a female governor, and according to Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics, women make up about 18 percent of the General Assembly.

There are no women representing the commonwealth in the U.S. Congress, and only 21 women in total — two senators and 19 representatives — have been sent to Washington by Pennsylvania voters.


Three Students Attend National Education for Women’s Leadership Conference

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on June 11th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

Three East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania students were selected to attend a program which seeks to help prepare and empower young women to be future leaders in the political process. The students attended the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania™ institute at the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa. from June 3 – 8. The NEW program is a six-day, concentrated curriculum for female students attending colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania. Participants learned about networking, public speaking, the need for women’s leadership in the political process and participated in skills-building workshops.

The ESU students chosen to attend were Shelby Jimcosky, a junior majoring in political science from Scranton, Pa., Asia Morton, a senior majoring in history from Newark, N.J., and Natalia Castillo, a junior majoring in biotechnology from East Stroudsburg, Pa. This year, 43 students were selected to attend from more than 26 colleges and universities across Pennsylvania. Kimberly S. Adams, Ph.D., ESU professor of political science, recruited the students and serves as a faculty liaison between ESU and the NEW Leadership Institute. “I am amazed at how this program continues to educate and inspire young women to be active participants in the political process. It is an incredible opportunity for our students,” Dr. Adams said.



Women take center stage in local legislative races

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on June 9th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

Women Make History In Pennsylvania Primaries, Look Ahead To November

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 25th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

  MAY 25, 2018

In November, women will be on the ballot in eight of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts—a record-breaking number for the commonwealth. The candidates claimed multiple victories in the May 15 primary.

Reporters MJ Slaby of The Incline and Lindsay Lazarski of WHYY weigh in on the increasing number of women candidates and primary winners. Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, joins the discussion as well.

Listen to the discussion at

PA Women Poised to Make History in Congressional Delegation After Primary Victories

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 21st, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

KEYSTONE CROSSROADS – Eight women running for congress in Pennsylvania advanced to the general election ballot on Tuesday, setting a record for the state.

For the past few years, only men have been in Pennsylvania’s 18 member congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.  But after Tuesday’s primary, that’s almost guaranteed to change in 2019.

In its history, Pennsylvania has only elected seven women to the U.S. House of Representatives — ever. Three of those women won special elections to fill vacancies left by their husbands.

No woman in Pennsylvania has ever been elected to the U.S. Senate, or to the Governor’s office.

“This is more than a little overwhelming,” said Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat, in her victory speech on Tuesday night. She’s running in the newly drawn 5th congressional district comprised of mostly Delaware County and parts of South Philadelphia.

Scanlon recounted a story from the 2016 election in her speech.

“A year and a half ago, my daughter and I donned pantsuits to go to the polls and vote for what we hoped would be the first woman president — a celebration we believed was long overdue,” said Scanlon. “And, like most of you, we were shocked by the election to our country’s highest office of a man who had no record or seeming inclination for public service.”

Scanlon, an attorney who leads the pro-bono program at Philadelphia’s Ballard Spahr law firm, beat out a crowded primary field that included five other women. Her only experience in public office was on Delaware County’s Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board.

In November, she’ll face Pearl Kim, a former special victims prosecutor in Delaware County, and the only Republican woman congressional candidate on the ballot in the state.

Having two women go head-to-head in a congressional race is a first for Pennsylvania, and Scanlon says she’s thrilled.

“We’ve made it possible for this new district for the first time to be represented by a Democrat in congress and to be represented by a woman in congress,” she said.

Kim did not return requests for comment.

Why so low?

To understand why Pennsylvania currently lacks women representatives in Congress, you may only have to look at the state’s lower-level offices.

Pennsylvania’s three row offices — Treasurer, Attorney General and Auditor General — are each currently occupied by men.

And in the current legislative session of the General Assembly, women make up 14 percent of members in the State Senate and about 20 percent in the State House. Nationally, that puts Pennsylvania 38th among states when it comes to women in state legislatures.

Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman, assistant director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, says this matters.

Typically, Sweet-Cushman says, women feel they need to get their feet wet in politics and work their way up before jumping into a congressional race.


Was There a Pink Wave in Pennsylvania?

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 17th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

How Pennsylvania women did in the 2018 primary — and what that means for November

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 17th, 2018 by admin – Be the first to comment

In a record year for women running for office, the primary victories of state rep. hopefuls like Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee were part of a larger wave of women advancing from the primary to the General Election across Pennsylvania.

In November, the number of women candidates on ballots for the Pa. General Assembly will have doubled since 2016, in a state criticized for its lack of women lawmakers. Pennsylvania was one of four states to get an “F” ranking in female political representation for 2018 from Representation 2020 Project, a national organization aiding female political candidates.

But that could be getting better.

In the 2016 election, roughly 87 percent of women running for general assembly advanced to the general election, said Jennie Sweet-Cushman, assistant director of Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. This year, it was 89 percent.

While the percentages stayed about the same, you can see the change in the number of candidates, she said: 65 advanced in 2016 and 118 will go forward this year.

However, those 118 women make up just 32 percent of Tuesday’s winners, Sweet-Cushman noted, meaning a majority of winners were men.

Similar to past years, there were many uncontested general assembly primaries, but places with challengers — like the 21st and 34th Districts in Allegheny County — saw interesting dynamics and heated contests, she said.

More than just the number of women running, there’s reason to believe that this year’s candidates might do better than in the past in November, since there are more women incumbents and better trained candidates, Sweet-Cushman said.

The bipartisan center at Chatham has a training program called Ready to Run, and 14 of its 20 graduates won Tuesday in general assembly and U.S. Congressional races, she said. For Emerge, a training program for Democratic women, 17 of 20 graduates won, per the organization’s Twitter.

In the past, women’s candidacies started in different ways than they seemed to this year, Sweet-Cushman said. Women candidates were previously seen as “sacrificial lamb” candidates by both parties, which knew the candidate wouldn’t win her race but wanted to show they were supportive of women running.

This time, it seemed that women were running because they wanted to and did so with party backing, grassroots backing or neither, she said. Sweet-Cushman has previously noted the influence of the 2016 presidential election on women candidates, especially when it comes to running for state and national office.

“The pieces came together, and these are not lambs. They’re really strong candidates,” she said. “If that’s a trend, that’s a good sign.”

Pa. women in Congress

The Pa. Congressional delegation has 20 members and no women, making it the largest state without a female member, HuffPost reported.

But that’s going to change in 2018.

Eight women candidates — seven Democrats and one Republican — emerged from the primaries for U.S. House, and that’s “undoubtedly” the largest number of women to make it to the general election for U.S. Congress, Sweet-Cushman said.

She added that a lot of the success is attributed to the candidates being Democrats running in new districts that were redrawn to eliminate a GOP advantage.

In the 5th Congressional District, in southeastern Pa., two women will compete in November, meaning there will be at least one woman from Pa. in the U.S. House next year, she said, adding that women candidates in the 4th, 6th and 7th districts (all in the eastern part of the state) also have a good chance at winning in November.

Locally, Bibiana Boerio won a four-way Democratic Primary to face Republican Guy Reschenthaler in District 14. Janis Brooks lost her fourth attempt to beat current U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle in District 18.

In the race for U.S. Senate, no women were on the ballot. Republican Laura Ellsworth lost her bid for governor and none of the five women — three Republicans and two Democrats — competing for lieutenant governor advanced.