Apr 7, 2022 - Politics

Pennsylvania women underrepresented in local politics

Percentage of women in municipal office
Reproduced from CAWP. Map: Axios Visuals

Women make up less than one-third of Pennsylvania's municipal offices, placing the commonwealth among the lowest in the country for female representation in local government.

Driving the news: The Center for American Women and Politics recently looked at demographics of local offices, including city councils, boards of aldermen, city commissions, mayors and officials who perform mayoral functions.

  • Numbers are based on cities and towns with populations over 10,000, per census data.

By the numbers: Women, who account for slightly more than half of Pennsylvania's population, make up 28.5% of municipal officeholders in the state. That's under the national average, which is around 31%.

Zoom in: In Philadelphia, women hold seven of the 16 filled council seats. One is vacant but will be filled through a special election.

  • Of note: Philadelphia has never had a woman mayor.

The big picture: Men make up a higher percentage of municipal office positions in every state except Hawaii. Mississippi has the lowest percentage of women in office at 19.7%, and Hawaii has the highest at 50%.

Between the lines: This trend on the municipal level mirrors state politics. Women make up only a quarter of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

  • Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, cited a trend of "negative gatekeeping through lack of endorsement and lack of resources," which tends to impact women, people of color and young people.

Yes, but: There are strides that seem to indicate a more inclusive path.

  • Pennsylvania is ranked 36th in the country for women in municipal offices, but that's five spots above where it was in 2021.

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