Report: Pennsylvania women legislators ‘few but mighty’

     Pennsylvania State Capitol (WITF, file)

    Pennsylvania State Capitol (WITF, file)

    Pennsylvania’s women legislators are more likely to work across party lines, get co-sponsors for bills, and get those measures signed into law, according to an analysis from the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

    Center director Dana Brown says the findings are in line with other research about women legislators at the national level.

    “We are not necessarily saying women legislators are better,” says Brown. “It’s just that from the point of measurement, we can say women legislators are more effective.”

    The report analyzes bills in Pennsylvania’s 2013-2014 legislative session. Nationally, women make up 51 percent of the population but only hold 19 percent of seats in Congress. The underrepresentation is worse in Pennsylvania, which ranks 39th among states for the percentage of seats held by women.

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    “In the 253-member General Assembly, only 40 women legislators currently serve in the House, and eight in the Senate,” says the report. “This is not significantly higher than Wyoming, which has the lowest percentage of women-held seats at 11.1 percent.”

    Its authors go on to say that Pennsylvania consistently falls behind other states in creating a public policy environment to address the needs of women.

    “There is evidence of persistent gender inequality and policies that negatively impact women’s ability to be engaged in the workplace, provide childcare for their children, manage their health and reproductive rights, and participate in the legislative process.”

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