By Anna Scheibmeir on June 15, 2017
Representation2020 has released its latest analysis on the underrepresentation of women in elected office, quantified through the Gender Parity Index (GPI), and Pennsylvania was given the second-lowest grade on it.
The GPI rates women's recent electoral success at the local, state, and national levels on a scale of 0 (no women in major elected offices) to 100 (women hold all such offices). These scores also translate to a letter grade, according to a press release that came out Wednesday. The goal of gender parity is a score of 50 and an A grade, which indicates that women and men are equally likely to hold office. The 2017 GPI finds that women are underrepresented at all levels of government.
As of June 2017, the median Gender Parity Score is 18.6, barely up from the 2015 score of 18.1. The GPI ranks New Hampshire first and Mississippi last in women's political representation. Out of all 50 states, 33 have a Gender Parity Score below 25, giving them a grade of D or F.
The GPI indicates regional gender parity trends across the nation. Six of the ten states with the lowest Gender Parity Scores are located in the South (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee). In contrast, the Northeast and West lead the country in women's representation, containing nine of the ten highest ranked states (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington).
Pennsylvania's 2017 Gender Parity Score is 6.5, assigning it a grade of F and ranking it at 49th in the nation. Pennsylvania has regressed since 2015, when it received a score of 9.6 and ranked 46th. Pennsylvania's low scores can be attributed largely to a lack of representation on the federal level. There are currently no women serving in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, and there has never been a female senator from Pennsylvania.
Per the release, Pennsylvania must also elect women to statewide executive offices in order to increase its Gender Parity Score. A woman has never served as governor of Pennsylvania. Of the four other elected statewide executive offices, women currently hold none. Although women's representation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly has improved in the last 20 years, progress has been slow. Since 1993, the percentage of seats held by women in the state legislature has increased from 10 percent in 1993 to 19 percent in 2017. Pennsylvania's state Legislature places 39th for gender parity. On the local level, seven of the 35 cities with populations over 30,000 have elected female mayors.
Pennsylvania uses single-winner districts to elect its legislature. Pennsylvania can progress toward gender parity by converting its state Legislature to entirely multi-winner districts and by using ranked choice voting, Representation2020 concluded.
"Changing rules and systems to create equality is part of the American tradition," notes Cynthia Richie Terrell, Representation2020 founder and director. "To win gender parity in our lifetimes we must pivot to system reforms that include gender targets for PACs and political parties so more women run, fair representation voting systems so more women win, and updated legislative practices so more women can serve and lead."