Philly behind on female City Council representation, report finds

With only seven of its 17 city council members being women, a new Pew report found Philadelphia is falling behind other major U.S. cities in terms of female representation.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada at her desk at City Council chambers at City Hall

Philadelphia City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada.(Emma Lee/WHYY)

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With a lot of vacancies created by council members running for mayor of Philadelphia last year, an opportunity was not seized in the effort to balance the battle of the sexes on Philadelphia City Council.

Currently only seven of the 17 members are female, and a new Pew report shows Philadelphia falling behind other major cities in the percentage of female council members.

Katie Martin, of the Pew Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative, coauthored the report, which showed all but two major cities — San Diego and Washington, D.C. — boosting the number of women on their legislative bodies.

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Martin explained, “The city increased its share of female representation from 35% to 41% but dropped in ranking from fifth to ninth. The other cities really grew their female representation.”

Houston and San Antonio showed greater increases than Philadelphia, and Phoenix led the survey with close to 80% women in their council.

The review also included salaries for council members. Philadelphia did much better in that review, with salaries in the range of $150,000 per year.

“It was the fourth highest among the comparison cities that we looked at,” said Martin. “Los Angeles had the highest average council member salary at more than $230,000 a year, and San Antonio had the lowest at about $47,000 per year.”

Members of Philadelphia City Council also receive cost of living adjustments for their wages.

Overall, the report said average council salaries in the U.S. have increased by 27% since 2016, but in Philadelphia, that number is only 20%. The largest increases were in California, where San Diego and San Jose went up the most.

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Tenure was another aspect of the review. The current tenure of council members was 6.9 years, placing it third behind Chicago and the District of Columbia. The issue is that the majority of council members haven’t served a full term.

The average is brought up by Councilman Brian O’Neill, who has served more than four terms in office.

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