Women in PA

‘Unprecedented’ numbers of Pa. women from both parties looking to run for office

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on February 13th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

At 5:30 in the morning of November 9, 2016, Natasha Taylor-Smith crept into her 13-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

She picked up her daughter’s smartphone, typed “CNN.com” into the browser and saw a large picture of now-President Donald Trump.

Taylor-Smith put down the phone and woke her daughter up.

“As soon as she opened her eyes, she says, ‘Did Hillary win?’ and I said, ‘No,’” Taylor-Smith recalled.

Her daughter gave her a confused look.

“‘Donald Trump’s going to be our president?” she asked.

“Yes,” Taylor-Smith replied.

Then, her daughter, who had been expecting to hear that overnight, the country had elected its first woman president, simply said, “Hmm,” and walked out of the room.

It wasn’t the first political setback for Taylor-Smith, an attorney who’d spent the fall making phone calls and knocking on doors for the Clinton campaign in suburban Montgomery County.

In 2015, she ran to be a judge on the Court of Common Pleas and lost.

But she says she has not felt a temptation to disengage from the political process. In fact, ever since then, Taylor-Smith says she’s been ready to dive back in.

“I feel like sometimes like a fire is welling up inside me and if I don’t have a constructive outlet for it, I might go crazy,” she said.

‘This is completely unprecedented’

For Taylor-Smith, that constructive outlet is doing whatever she can to support progressive causes and candidates, including herself. 

She is one of 25 women who recently spent their weekend sitting around long tables in a plumber’s union hall in Northeast Philadelphia, listening to back-to-back presentations about the ins and outs of running for office.

These women are the second class brought together by Emerge Pennsylvaniathe state chapter of a national organization devoted to helping Democratic women run. It offers an intense, six-month training in every aspect of campaigning from door-knocking to fundraising.

Executive Director Anne Wakabayashi said more than 100 women applied to this year’s program and the timing was notable.

“My email comes to my phone and it was just buzzing constantly the day after Election Day with people signing up for our email list,” she said. “We saw a bunch of likes on our Facebook page, we saw all this interest and so I checked our applications status and I noticed we had a couple applications started and it just kept going up and up and up.”

Truscha Quatrone, Wakabayashi’s counterpart in New Jersey, has also seen a rise in demand.

“Since the women’s march, my inbox is full with women wanting to take training to run for office,” Quatrone said in an e-mail. 

This is not what Dana Brown expected at all.

Brown heads up the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.  She and her colleagues believed Clinton’s loss and the divisive 2016 election cycle would turn women off. 

“Many of us thought that if she lost the presidency then that would have a chilling effect for women, that women would see perhaps how she was treated negatively by the press or by other outlets… and that is just the complete opposite,” she said. 

In fact, Brown has been flooded with inquiries for the university’s bi-partisan “Ready To Run” program coming up next month. Normally, she has to create demand for the training. For the first time, she had to create a waitlist for the day-long session in Pittsburgh.

“This is completely unprecedented for this program,” she said. “The room literally is at capacity. We could be breaking fire codes if we allow any more women in.”

Despite the fact women make up 51 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, they make up just 18.6 percent of the state legislature. In New Jersey, it’s 30 percent.

Studies have shown women face several barriers to running, including fears about asking for money and lack of support from party leadership. Balancing political careers with family obligations are towards the bottom of that list.

Brown says this new trend is being driven by Democrats — many of them members of the pro-Clinton group Pantsuit Nation, which has been sharing opportunities for civic engagement, such as Ready to Run, on social media.

But Brown and her counterparts at the Center For Women and Politics at Rutgers University are also seeing an uptick in the number of Republican women interested in running for office for the first time.

‘Maybe politics isn’t as scary’

On a recent weeknight, Michelle Rupp was among the crowd women at a restaurant in a strip mall in Landsdale, eating Mediterranean food, drinking wine and talking politics.

It was the monthly gathering of the Montgomery County Republican Women’s Leadership group.

Rupp was brought here by a friend who’s recruited her to run for the North Penn school board.

She has come to the meetings for years to advocate for her 11-year-old daughter, who has an uncommon birth defect that causes many challenges for her in school.

But Rupp is feeling rather uneasy about being a first-time candidate.

“Scared to death,” she said with a laugh. “I have absolutely no idea what I’m in for.”

Rupp was an early supporter of President Trump and thinks his surprise victory played a hand, albeit a subconscious one, in her decision to run.

“I really thought about how different he was as a candidate and he’s not that classic politician — he’s a businessman,” said Roop, who runs her own veterinary practice.

“It really got me thinking that maybe politics isn’t as scary or as difficult as what I thought it was… and maybe you really can keep your soul and still run and be an elected official,” she said.

Rupp said having guidance and support from other Republican women who are energized by their party’s big win is making her journey to the ballot easier.

‘Women… are those new faces’

So what will it take to turn this influx of interest into election wins?

The number of women in Congress has been stuck around 19 percent for more than a decade, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. In statehouses across the country, she said the average is only slightly higher at 24.8 percent. 

“The pace of progress has been glacially slow,” said Walsh.

Walsh thinks that’s because leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties — many of them men — have not focused enough attention and resources on getting women to run.

But after the so-called “year of the outsider” and the historic women’s marches that took place across the country and across the world last Saturday, Walsh believes they just might.

“If voters are looking for outsiders or new faces…women in fact, in many cases, are those new faces,” she said.

Read more at http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/homepage-feature/item/100711-unpredecented-numbers-of-pa-women-from-both-parties-looking-to-run-for-office

Women encouraged to run for office

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on February 13th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

A little more than a week ago, hundreds of thousands of women marched in Washington and cities across the country. But some public policy advocates want to see more women run.

Specifically, more women need to run for office, advocates say.

Women hold about 19 percent of the seats in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. The state Legislature includes 47 women among its 253 members.


Locally, state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, stands as the lone woman among the 13 state lawmakers representing portions of Berks County.

Even worse, for the second consecutive session, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation has no women among its 20 members.

“It’s embarrassing. It really is,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. “Pennsylvania has a lot of great attributes, but the diversity of the governing body is not one of them.”

Pennsylvania trails the country at large when it comes to female legislators. The Keystone State is 39th in the nation, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Both the state Democratic and Republican parties are doing better at reaching out to women, experts say.

Pennsylvania Democrats nominated former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty in her unsuccessful effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Lehigh County Republican. Republicans have made progress in finding female candidates. State Rep. Martina White became the first Republican to win an open state legislative seat in Philadelphia in a quarter-century.

But as the numbers show, there is plenty of progress to be made.

A complex problem

Nationwide, the percentage of female state lawmakers has been stagnant for nearly a decade, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. About 24 percent of all state lawmakers are women.

“Our challenge is not that women are running in droves and don’t win,” Walsh said. “Women win at the same rate as men do in comparable races.”

The challenge has been to get women to run in the first place.

Women typically haven’t been recruited as aggressively as men to run for state legislative seats, Walsh said.

“Women are more likely to run for the state legislature if they are recruited, and we know they are less likely to be recruited than men are,” Walsh said.

Schwank said many women shy away from running for office.

“I think that we still wait to be asked or worry that we may not have the qualifications to do the job as we feel it needs to be done,” Schwank said. “I think that attitude is persistent among women.”

The state Democratic and Republican parties are demonstrating more interest in finding women to run for office, said Brown. But she said both parties have long held a male selection bias when it comes to seeking legislative candidates.

Women often wait later than men before running for office, Walsh and Brown said. Some feel they can’t run until their children are grown.

Schwank said that was true for her.

“I don’t know that I could have been able to do the job the way that I wanted to do it if I was trying to raise children at the same time,” said Schwank.

Schwank, who is 65, has just begun her second full term. But as many women wait until their late 40s to enter politics, they often have a shorter trajectory, Walsh and Brown noted.

It typically takes years for a state lawmaker to get choice committee assignments or leadership posts. Female candidates – and male candidates – have a greater chance of gaining clout in the Capitol if they run for a seat at an earlier age.

Some women shy away from the less appealing aspects of running for office, such as fundraising or the prospect of negative campaign ads.

Female lawmakers typically match male candidates in fundraising in comparable races, Walsh said, but they may have to expend more time and energy to do it.

Nature of the state

Pennsylvania’s full-time legislature, which pays the second-highest legislative salaries in the country, presents another obstacle to getting more women in the Capitol.

Lawmakers earn a minimum of about $86,000, and top legislative leaders can earn more than $100,000.

“Men tend to want those jobs,” Brown said. “It tends to be more competitive.”

States that pay lawmakers modest salaries typically have a greater number of women serving as legislators, said Brown.

Pennsylvania’s legislative seats are increasingly safe, thanks to redistricting efforts designed to protect incumbents in both parties. There are fewer competitive districts for any candidate to pursue.

“Your best opportunity is in a vacant seat,” Schwank said.

The gridlock in politics – at the state and national level – can be a deterrent. Some women interested in public service opt for working with nonprofit groups or philanthropic organizations.

“They find other avenues to affect social change,” Brown said.

Why it matters

For Brown and others, it’s not about merely getting more women into the state Capitol. Advocates argue that getting more women to serve as state lawmakers would strengthen the General Assembly.

Women legislate differently than men, Brown said. They bring up public policy issues that are often ignored.

The federal law providing paid family leave emerged in the 1990s largely because the rising number of women in Congress articulated the need for it.

“We know from political science research when we have more women at the table, we have more public policy interests being brought up,” Brown said.

Female lawmakers are often more interested in sharing the credit on legislation with their colleagues.

“They tend to use a lot more collaborative language, identifying ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’ in claiming credit for bills,” Brown said. “It may seem like a small thing, but it leads to more bipartisanship.”

When there is more bipartisan cooperation, it makes it easier to pass important legislation, Brown said.

Surge of interest

More women appear motivated to run for office.

In February, Chatham’s Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics is running two bipartisan training sessions to help prepare women who are considering running for elected office.

An event in Pittsburgh is already sold out with 111 women registered, Brown said, and an additional 85 women are on a waiting list. She said her office is scrambling to find a larger venue.

“We cannot be turning that many women away,” she said.

Chatham is holding another event in Philadelphia on Feb. 18, and slots are still available.

Brown attributes the enthusiasm to the 2016 election. Democratic women are motivated to run because they are angry about the results, Brown said. Conversely, some Republican women say they are enthused about the possibilities of holding elective office in light of the GOP’s recent successes.

Brown said the Republican and Democratic parties are eager to see more women participating. And she said women thinking about running for office shouldn’t be deterred by the small number of female lawmakers in Pennsylvania.

“Be a part of the change,” Brown said.


Read more http://www.readingeagle.com/news/article/women-encouraged-to-run-for-office

Data: Women lack representation in elected positions

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 26th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

Allegheny County added one woman to the state Legislature this month following November’s election. That brings the total number of women representing Allegheny County in the state’s governing body to one.

But Democrat Anita Astorino Kulik of Kennedy — whose district includes nearby Coraopolis, Emsworth and Neville Island — says she is used to being the only woman in a roomful of men: she spent 12 years on the board of commissioners in Kennedy Township.

“It wasn’t so bad being the only woman, because I felt like ‘I’m going to speak up’ because I had to,” Kulik says.

The number of women in Pennsylvania’s governing body is going in a different direction than the rest of the country, according to the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

Executive Director Dana Brown says the conventional wisdom that “when women run, women win” wasn’t borne out on Nov. 8, at least not in the Keystone State.

When the general assembly convened this month, the body saw a net gain of two women, bringing the total to 49, or 19 percent of the total Legislature. This puts the governing body 40th in the country for its representation of women. And even if all of the women who ran had won, Pennsylvania still would be lagging behind: 74 women ran for seats in the legislature, and just over half of them won.

Women are underrepresented on municipal governing bodies as well. In Sewickley Valley municipalities with a population of at least 500, only one has a female mayor — Barbara Carrier of Glen Osborne.

Carrier spent years on Glen Osborne Council before becoming mayor in 2014.

“We need more women in government because women have different ways of thinking,” Carrier said. But women need to know what they’re getting themselves into, she adds.

“As a woman mayor, I’ve had people ask a man about something I was responsible for. You need to be assertive, but in a good way.”

She’s’ retired from her full-time teaching job at Sewickley Academy now, and her three children are grown, so Carrier believes she’ll be able to do more for her community.

“When I first started there were very few women,” she said. “Now there are two other women along with me. Hopefully more women will realize the value of local government.”

But, she adds, anyone considering a run for any political office should consider their motivations, and be realistic about what to expect.

“Government is very slow, and you have to be very patient,” she said. “I would love to see more people become involved who know it’s important to understand the greater good, that not everything is just about how it affects you.”

Aleppo, Bell Acres, Edgeworth, Leet and Sewickley Heights have one woman each on their municipality’s governing body; Glen Osborne, Leetsdale and Sewickley each have two female members. Sewickley Hills has three.

Brown says research shows that like the perspective women bring to the business world, women in politics offer much-needed, different voices to any governing body.

“They bring a different set of life experiences, and lead differently than men,” she said. While female representatives do push for so called “women’s issues” like child care, equal pay, and paid family leave, that’s not all they’re bringing to the table. “They’re more likely to be bipartisan, to change how things are done, and be more transparent, showing how policy gets made.”

So why can’t Pennsylvania elect more women to its Legislature? Brown says there are two big factors that make the Keystone State a tough nut to crack. First, Pennsylvania is a state that favors incumbents, even at the hyperlocal level. Indeed, 86 percent of the incumbent women running in 2016 were reelected.

Second, like other states with full-time governing bodies, Pennsylvania’s Legislature has a hard time attracting female candidates.

But Brown said there’s another statistic about women in Pennsylvania that seems to go against conventional political science research as well: More are signing up to run for office in 2017 than history would have predicted.

“I thought there would be a chilling effect, from all the negative campaign ads” in 2016, Brown said, adding that women cite negative campaigning as one of the top reasons they don’t seek political office.

The PCWP’s Ready to Run session on Feb. 4 at Chatham’s Shadyside campus is at capacity and has a waiting list, and a Philadelphia session is filling up quickly. Ready to Run Pennsylvania is part of the national Ready to Run network of the Center for American Women and Politics based at Rutgers University. The organization offers bipartisan training and resources for women who want to learn more about how to run for public office.

For her part, Kulik, a practicing attorney, says her top priorities in the legislature will be looking at revisions to domestic violence laws to strengthen protection-from-abuse orders, early childhood education and ways to make things easier for working families.

“So many women and families are working so hard just to keep their heads above water,” she said. “This is a chance to try to work on that.”

Read more at TribeLive

It started with a retiree. Now the Women’s March could be the biggest inauguration demonstration.

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on January 5th, 2017 by admin – Be the first to comment

 January 3

Teresa Shook never considered herself much of an activist, or someone particularly versed in feminist theory. But when the results of the presidential election became clear, the retired attorney in Hawaii turned to Facebook and asked: What if women marched on Washington around Inauguration Day en masse?

She asked her online friends how to create an event page, and then started one for the march she was hoping would happen.

By the time she went to bed, 40 women responded that they were in.

When she woke up, that number had exploded to 10,000.

Now, more than 100,000 people have registered their plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington in what is expected to be the largest demonstration linked to Donald Trump’s inauguration and a focal point for activists on the left who have been energized in opposing his agenda.

Planning for the Jan. 21 march got off to a rocky start. Controversy initially flared over the name of the march, and whether it was inclusive enough of minorities, particularly African Americans, who have felt excluded from many mainstream feminist movements.

Organizers say plans are on track, after securing a permit from D.C. police to gather 200,000 people near the Capitol at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW on the morning after Inauguration Day. Exactly how big the march will be has yet to be determined, with organizers scrambling to pull together the rest of the necessary permits and raise the $1 million to $2 million necessary to pull off a march triggered by Shook’s Facebook venting.

The march has become a catch-all for a host of liberal causes, from immigrant rights to police killings of African Americans. But at its heart is the demand for equal rights for women after an election that saw the defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major party.

“We plan to make a bold and clear statement to this country on the national and local level that we will not be silent and we will not let anyone roll back the rights we have fought and struggled to get,” said Tamika Mallory, a veteran organizer and gun-control advocate who is one of the march’s main organizers.

More than 150,000 women and men have responded on the march’s Facebook pagethat they plan on attending. At least 1,000 buses are headed to Washington for the march through Rally, a website that organizes buses to protests. Dozens of groups, including Planned Parenthood and the antiwar CodePink, have signed on as partners.

Organizers insist the march is not anti-Trump, even as many of the groups that have latched on to it fiercely oppose his agenda.

“Donald Trump’s election has triggered a lot of women to be more involved than they ordinarily would have been, which is ironic, because a lot of us thought a Hillary presidency would motivate women,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. “A lot of women seem to be saying, ‘This is my time. I’m not going to be silent anymore.’ ”

Trump Inaugural Committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn defended the president-elect’s popularity among women in an interview on CNN. While Trump did not receive the majority of women’s votes, he got an “overwhelming” number of them, Epshteyn said.

“We’re here to hear their concerns,” he said. “We welcome them to our side as well.”

That all this could grow out of a dashed-off post from her perch nearly 5,000 miles from Washington is amazing to Shook, who has booked her ticket and plans to be in the capital on Jan. 21.

Read more at The Washington Post

Experts: There may be a positive in the backlash to the Donald Trump video

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on October 12th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

They are surely some of the most uncouth comments from a presidential candidate to be aired publicly.

But experts say there may be one positive in the backlash and condemnation that have arisen following the release of a 2005 video in which Donald Trump brags about kissing and groping women: an increased awareness of sexual assault.

The topic has dominated media coverage for several days and spawned more than a million anecdotes on social media in which women share their own stories of groping and sexual assault.

“It is an educational moment,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. “It is sending a positive message to women and girls that sexual assault is unacceptable, and that talking or bragging about it is unacceptable, and that is a move in the right direction.”

Mr. Trump and campaign surrogates have downplayed the comments as “locker-room banter” that did not reflect his actual behavior, and have questioned their characterization as assault.

Sexual assault is a topic that has played an unexpectedly large role in this presidential campaign, from Mr. Trump appearing with those who have accused former President Bill Clinton of non-consensual sex, to the 2005 videotape in which Mr. Trump boasts that “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything” in reference to kissing women and grabbing their genitals without warning.

“He has certainly ignited a conversation about sexual advances on women,” said Ms. Brown of Mr. Trump’s comments. “He’s saying that it’s just words, but actually those words are quite powerful. We want to make sure our students will have an opportunity for discussion. Our hope is that some student-athletes might speak out about locker-room talk, that this is not reflective.”

Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, found a silver lining in an “uncomfortable” yet productive conversation she had with her 14-year-old son in showing him the video prior to him watching the debate. “If this horrible video can inspire more parents to have conversations with their young sons about how they can treat women with respect, that is a positive outcome,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s comments launched powerful reaction on social media, noted anupama jain, an adjunct professor in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.

On Friday, Canadian author Kelly Oxford asked women to share their personal tales of sexual assaults, using the hashtag #notokay on Twitter, drawing nearly 30 million responses as of Monday afternoon and widespread media attention.

Read More at Post-Gazette.com

Could breaking the glass ceiling lead to the glass cliff for female leadership?

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on August 2nd, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Lindsay Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


After decades in politics, Hillary Clinton is asking for a promotion. Once again, she is competing for the title of commander in chief, but this year she has made it to the final interview.

Should she win, she would be the first female president of the United States, a point her campaign has worked tirelessly to drive home. After last Tuesday’s formal nomination, Ms. Clinton addressed the crowd at the Democratic National Convention in a video message saying, “I can’t believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”

This crack in the glass ceiling leaves her in uncharted territory. If Ms. Clinton were to win the presidency she would enter the Oval Office in a nation sharply divided by race, religion and political affiliation. Some political observers have suggested this could make her a scapegoat teetering over the edge of a glass cliff, like some of her fellow female leaders, but others see it as laying the groundwork for her to be a trailblazing pioneer.

The term glass cliff was coined in 2004 by British professors Michelle K. Ryan and Alexander Haslam from the University of Exeter. The theory is simple — women are more likely to be put into leadership roles in turbulent times. Examples include Marissa Mayer taking over as CEO for Yahoo during a time of falling web traffic and ad revenue, or Theresa May becoming the prime minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union and potential male candidates for the position walked away.

Given that there are so few women in top positions of power, Mr. Haslam said this small sample size makes it difficult to study the glass cliff phenomena. Some examples, like Ms. May, are more explicit than others. The Brexit aftermath showed the world how men sometimes back away in times of crisis, he said, in this case leaving only Ms. May and Andrea Leadsom to step up to the task of prime minister of the United Kingdom.

These glass cliff opportunities are often pushed onto women as a chance to prove themselves, Mr. Haslam said. This doesn’t happen for men because men are offered more opportunities to excel and can therefore be picky when choosing which to take on.

In the case of Ms. Clinton, Mr. Haslam said that the glass cliff theory applied more explicitly to her 2008 campaign than to this year’s presidential election and Ms. Clinton’s historic role in it.

Having a woman and an African American as the major Democratic candidates during a campaign taking place in the midst of the Wall Street financial crisis made them easier potential scapegoats. Barack Obama and Ms. Clinton both faced challenges in carrying the burden of being a role model for people of color and women respectively while taking on daunting challenges.

The 2016 election, however, is different in that there are not imminent threats or a new crisis unfolding. This does not eliminate the gendered politics that surround Ms. Clinton’s campaign, potential presidency or entire political career leading up to her nomination, Mr. Haslam said.

“The glass cliff is relevant to the big Hillary narrative, but maybe not right now,” Mr. Haslam said.

Rather than representing a glass cliff, this change in the political landscape can be used as a launching pad for women in power, Dana Brown, political science professor at Chatham University and executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics said.

“They’re that physical embodiment of change,” Ms. Brown said. “[Voters are] looking for something that’s different from the ‘norm,’ and for so long politics looked like white men, typically heterosexual, so people are looking for something new.”

Read more at www.post-gazette.com

We spent decades dreaming up the perfect female president. She doesn’t exist.

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on July 25th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

 July 22 

In the summer before 1992’s presidential election, the toy company Mattel, which had given Barbie a series of historically masculine professions — astronaut in 1965, surgeon in 1973 — decided to award its famous doll a new role: presidential candidate. Candidate Barbie wore a ball gown. The dress had a silver bustier and a star-spangled skirt, and its wearer’s platinum-blond hair fell in waves to her waist. It was an outfit entirely inappropriate for the campaign trail, but then again, it was Barbie.

That, incidentally, was in the middle of the “Year of the Woman,” in which an unprecedented five women were elected to the U.S. Senate. The country was trying to figure out what the first female American president should look like and symbolize. It still is. We still are.

We still are, even as we’ve gotten closer than ever before to that milestone, even as a woman is about to be nominated by a major political party for the first time and the cautious, heartful hope felt by some people is balanced by the outright hatred of others.

When I posed the question, school-assignment-like (What would it mean to you to have a female president?) to a thousand-odd friends on Facebook, the responses came back perfunctorily and practiced, as if never-ending election coverage had taught everyone how to talk in sound bites: the momentousness, the symbolism, the importance of not voting for any candidate, male or female, because of gender. Repeatedly, people said they’d like to elect the first female president if for no other reason than they were tired of endlessly talking about what it would mean. We’re over it, they said. Even before the moment has happened, we’re over it.

But are we?

Think of the Night of Terror in 1917, in which 33 women protesting outside the White House were arrested and beaten, dragged to jail and kept there for the crime of thinking that women should have the right to vote. One of them, after watching her cellmate’s head bashed against a metal bedframe, had a heart attack. Or think of Jeannette Rankin, the first female member of Congress, elected in 1916, when American women in many states couldn’t have cast a ballot for her. Or of Abigail Adams, in 1776, urging her husband to “remember the ladies,” aware with each quill stroke that a woman’s only hope at the time was the compassion of a man.

“I remember, in third or fourth grade, Michael Dukakis and George [H.W.] Bush were running, and my class had a mock election,” says Dana Brown, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. “And it became really crystallized. The boys were the ones who wanted to participate. I was the only girl who decided I wanted to be president. It was me versus a kid named Mike.” (Mike won).

That’s one moment from Brown’s life. Here’s another, 30 years later:

“My 8-year-old niece recently asked my sister-in-law whether girls can be presidents,” Brown says. The mother said they could, of course, and then wondered aloud why her daughter was asking. The girl pointed to the pictures on the back of her history textbook; she’d noticed that all the presidents marching across the jacket were boys.

When people talk about gender equality in politics, they often point to this idea: It’s not the first female president who matters, but all the ones who come after her. Generations of girls need to see by example that women can be presidents so that they can aspire to be presidents themselves. A man, a white man at least, might not understand what it is to enter a room and feel his eyes scramble for purchase until they land on another person who looks like him. But all women know this feeling, the comfort of another treble voice, the possibility of a similar perspective, the prospect of a borrowed tampon. It matters if the room is the Oval Office.

For decades, women have been trying to get into this room: Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina. With each opportunity, the stakes are a little higher. If the first female president had been elected in 1796, on the heels of George Washington, she could have been just another candidate, with a bad temper or a wandering eye or whatever human frailty we’ve grown to accept in the leaders of the Free World.

Read more at the washingtonpost.com

What RNC speakers reveal about the GOP

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on July 21st, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

CLEVELAND — Among the refrains during Monday night’s convention speeches was that “All lives matter.” But as has been true for much of Donald Trump’s campaign, there was special attention paid to the lives of men.

Of the 27 speakers on Monday night, 20 were men. Of the women, four were grieving the loss of a son or brother, either at the hands of illegal immigrants or during the Benghazi attacks.

Supporters and pundits say that with terrorist attacks and police shootings in the headlines, the Trump campaign’s focus on the night’s theme — Making America Safe Again — may help boost Mr. Trump’s support among women. Still, Monday’s focus did not go unnoticed.

“Security has long been associated with masculinity, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his campaign,” said Dana Brown, the executive director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics. And she said Monday night’s focus on male victims tied into a broader narrative.

“Based on the Trump campaign’s rhetoric, they believe that men, especially white men, have been left out in this new, changing economy.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s discussions of the economy focuses most heavily on economic sectors, like manufacturing and mining, where men predominate.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up just under 47 percent of the total workforce. But they make up just 5 percent of mining jobs, among the lowest concentrations of the economy. Their share of manufacturing jobs is under 30 percent, and within that sector they are concentrated most heavily in industries like apparel and baking. In steelmaking, they hold just 11 percent of jobs.

“His comfort zone is around issues that best align with white, male voters,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and pollster at Muhlenburg College. “His outreach to women voters is less clear and not as comfortable.”

Mr. Trump has stumbled on issues like abortion rights. Though formerly pro-choice, he claims to have “evolved” on the issue: In March, he said that if abortion was illegal, women who sought one could face “Some form of punishment.” He later walked back that position, which is harsher than many anti-abortion activists espouse.

But while Mr. Trump has been plagued by a “gender gap” in polls pitting him against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the gap may be shrinking. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed Mr. Trump drawing even with Ms. Clinton among college-educated women: Ms. Clinton previously led by 22 among that group. A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters this month found a similar trend, with Ms. Clinton’s edge among women there dropping from 16 points to just 4.

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Meet the Philly women who want to make more women stars in politics

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on July 6th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Claudia Vargas, Staff Writer

In 2010, Kerri Kennedy was training women in Afghanistan to run for office when she noticed a stark statistic. That year, 28 percent of elected officials in Afghanistan were women, while in the United States, women held just 17 percent of such positions.

A friend told her that while the work Kennedy did was commendable, she could have a bigger impact helping women in her own country get elected.

“She said, ‘You’re not walking the talk,’ ” Kennedy recalled.

Six years later, Kennedy is one of more than a dozen Philadelphia women who run Represent!, a political action committee focused on electing Democratic women to state and federal office. The committee’s federal arm has raised $94,000 and given $175,000 to campaigns since last year. The state arm has raised $50,400 this election cycle and $89,000 since it became active in 2014.

At a time when millions are flowing to political campaigns, the dollars raised and donated by Represent! seem modest. But the group is hoping to gain momentum as the Democratic National Convention, July 25 to 28, nears and Hillary Clinton is poised to make history as the first female presidential candidate of a major U.S. party.

“It’s the right time for an organization like ours,” said Kennedy, 41, who in her day job is an executive for a nonprofit. (She is not related to those Kennedys.)

In late June, Represent! achieved “multicandidate” PAC status at the federal level, which means the group has supported at least five federal candidates and has more than 50 individual donors. That status allows a PAC to receive up to $5,000 from an individual a year, nearly double the usual $2,700 limit for individual donors.

“We are able to give a lot more money to the campaigns,” said Aubrey Montgomery, 32, one of the cofounders.

The women behind Represent! are trying to distinguish themselves from other female-focused PACs, such as EMILY’S List, the national group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights, and one that many women, including Represent! board members, have supported over the years.

On the Republican side, too, a PAC called Women Lead is trying to elect women, and the Anne B. Anstine Series, based in Pennsylvania and named for the woman who once led the state GOP, is a workshop that helps train women going into politics. Both groups were founded by Christine J. Toretti, a Republican National Committee member.


Read more at Philly.com

MPR News with Kerri Miller: Women in Politics

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on May 16th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

Listen to Dr. Dana Brown, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics on Minnesota Public Radio.