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Pennsylvania Ranks in the Bottom 5 in Terms of Gender Parity in 2016

By Madeline Kane

In 1993, Pennsylvania ranked 49th in the nation, with a Gender Parity Score of 3.4 out of 100. In 2016 it ranks slightly better at 46th, with a gender parity score of 9.6 out of 100. Men continue to hold all 20 of Pennsylvania’s seats in the U.S. House and Senate. In its history, Pennsylvania has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate and has elected only seven women to the House. In 2014, Pennsylvanians did not elect any women to Congress for the first time in the 21st century. No woman has served as governor in Pennsylvania, but four have been elected state treasurer.

These are some shocking statistics. How can it be possible that in 2016, there are so few women representing the state of Pennsylvania? Representative Allyson Schwartz was the closest example of a woman running for governor but even a woman as qualified as her seems to be kept out of federal positions.

Why is this? There have been training programs in place to help more women get elected in Pennsylvania but these programs are not enough to solve the systematic problems without electoral system that lock out women. What Pennsylvania needs is lasting structural reform in order to get more women into positions of power in politics. Multi-winner districts hold strong potential for creating more representation. Simply put, with this system more than one candidate would win in each district, allowing more women to participate. Studies have shown that these multi-winner districts increase the number of women in office. The first explanation for this positive effect is that parties are more likely to nominate candidates that can balance out the diversity of their slate in order to show that they are inclusive and representative of the population.

It does not seem fair that women, who make up more than half of the population, are being represented in such a small number in governing bodies that make decisions that affect women’s lives. Something needs to change and it is in our hands, as Americans, to see that change through.

Even more alarming than the simple lack of representation of women in Pennsylvania is the lack of representation of women of color. Why are so few women of color winning, despite the fact that they make up a strong percentage of the population? As we celebrate the passing of 19th amendment with our #SummerOfSuffrage campaign, we cannot forget that this groundbreaking legislation was not fully inclusive to all women. Let us remember the fight that women of color have fought thus far as tremendous progress but still not finished. All women need to come together to unite in the battle for gender parity in politics. We need a system of government that represents the population of this country - with all genders and races represented proportionally.

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