EDITORIAL: Gender disparity in politics 'stark'

York Dispatch
  • Women are still woefully underrepresented in local, state and national politics
  • A recent report finds the skills women bring to lawmaking are much-needed


Deborah Kalina assembles lawn signs at her Codorus Township home prior to the at the 2017 primary election. submitted

Women remain underrepresented in national, state and local governments in 2017.

And in Pennsylvania, that number is “particularly stark,” according to a May 2017 report, “Few, but Mighty: Women and Bill Sponsorship in the Pennsylvania General Assembly,” by the Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University’s Women’s Institute.

The report finds the lack of female representation is detrimental in terms of representation, policy-making, collaboration and legislative success.

Simply put, more women in government can lead to a significantly more effective government. And to that end, at least locally, there's reason to be hopeful that more women will launch political careers.

York Dispatch reporter Jana Benscoter’s report “Gender disparity in politics slowly evolving” highlights local women who are running for office or currently representing the people of York. Kristin Phillips-Hill, Carol Hill-Evans, Deborah Kalina, Dawn Keefer and others are familiar faces in local politics.

Gender disparity in politics slowly evolving

But as Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, told us: "I can remember being in fourth grade. It was the bicentennial, and the boys in the class wrote reports on a president. And, the girls in the class wrote reports on a first lady. So, you kind of always viewed yourself as the first lady."

Across the United States, women make up more than 50 percent of the population, yet hold less than 20 percent of the available seats in Congress, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Dillsburg, during the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

In Pennsylvania, according to the Center for Women in Politics report, the 253-member General Assembly, only 40 women legislators currently serve in the House, and eight in the Senate.

Additionally, Pennsylvania has been ranked 46th in overall gender parity, according to the report.

“Given both the paucity of women in Pennsylvania government and the crucial role women appear to play in addressing women’s issues, it should be no surprise that Pennsylvania is often criticized for failing to meet the needs of its female citizens. ‘The State of Women in America,’ a study funded by the independent Center for American Progress (2013), gave the state a grade of C–,” the report finds.

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The report goes on to indicate that partisan gridlock may be a function of having fewer women in the Legislature.

Case in point: The eight-month budget stalemate that began in 2015. The report found that women in the state Legislature had done much to work across the aisle during that time, scheduling coffee meetings and generally connecting to see if there was a way they could collaboratively help break the partisan ice.

More women may have meant more compromise and more effective negotiating, which, in turn, may have led to a shorter — or non-existent — stalemate. An on-time budget, in turn, would have taken much undue stress off of schools, agencies, municipalities and taxpayers.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey, left, representative Carol Hill-Evans and Deborah Kalina at the 2017 St. Patrick's Day parade in York City. submitted

The research finds that when women are elected to office, they are more likely to advocate for women’s issues and move legislation through process efficiently by being more collaborative.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what taxpayers are seeking — a more effective and efficient government?

If that’s what you’re looking for, encourage women to run for office locally — and vote for them to represent you when they do.