Represent PA, Women for the Future (WTF) Pittsburgh and Black Women for Positive Change are organizations committed to fostering a pipeline of progressive women for higher office in Pennsylvania. In 2022, Pennsylvanians will be electing a new Governor and a new US Senator. Why not bring about change across the Commonwealth and elect women to these positions?
We think the diversity in our state should be reflected in our elected officials. This reflection can be viewed in many ways including race, religion, sexual orientation, careers and of course gender. From corporate boards to legislative bodies, evidence shows that diverse voices at the table bring about better decisions in terms of understanding customers and residents and managing needs and risk.
We have a unique opportunity in 2022 to bring about change across the Commonwealth. Why limit the choices to only white men? We’re thrilled to see that Montgomery County Commissioner and Chair Val Arkoosh, MD, and Alexandria Khalil both have decided to run, and we look forward to other women entering both races.
However, in Pennsylvania – going back to the signing of the Constitution – the Governor and US Senator positions have always been held by white men. Even with the franchising of the rest of our residents, nothing has changed, perpetuating some unwritten idea that only men are “good enough” to govern or represent.
Indeed, Pennsylvania has had an extremely poor record of electing women to public office of any sort. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, only 11 women have held statewide elected office, such as Lieutenant Governor or State Treasurer, but never Governor. And the number of women who have represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress – including the four Pennsylvania women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 – totals only 11 as well, with none a U.S. Senator.
The State Legislature has never completely reflected the people of the Commonwealth either. In 2016, Pennsylvania ranked 40th in the US in the share of women in state legislatures with 18.6% women. Through the hard work and the focus of many, we are now nationally ranked 32nd with 26.9% women. But we need to hear more women’s voices to improve our Commonwealth.
Women leaders, who are educators, nurses, scientists, small business owners, health advocates, local government leaders and so much more, are the ones who are willing to tackle the big issues facing the Commonwealth, issues that our current Legislature has ignored for too long. Consider these statistics: funding for Pennsylvania public schools have been ranked the most unequal (rich vs. poor districts) in the nation; the State ranks 44th nationally with respect to the health of its natural environment; Pennsylvania is one of 21 states still using the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, while nearby states of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Ohio all pay higher wages; since the Parkland shooting, 26 states (including 15 with Republican governors) have passed and signed laws addressing gun violence, but not Pennsylvania. These issues need legislators who can offer fresh ideas and can bring about the changes that a diverse citizenry wants.
It’s time to break this streak and elect more women; it’s time for a more reflective democracy.
Represent PA Executive Board, Black Women for Positive Change & WTF Pittsburgh Board