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Pa. ranks 49th in female representation in elected office

| Saturday, June 17, 2017, 3:09 p.m.
The Pennsylvania State Capitol on Nov. 19, 2015 seen from State St. in Harrisburg. The CapitolÕs centerpiece is a 272-foot tall dome.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The Pennsylvania State Capitol on Nov. 19, 2015 seen from State St. in Harrisburg. The CapitolÕs centerpiece is a 272-foot tall dome.

Pennsylvania ranks 49th out of 50 states - and the U.S. is 100th globally - in female representation in elected office, according to Representation 20/20, a political advocacy group whose goal is to have more women running for and winning office.

The reasons for that are complex, said state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, of Sunbury.

Culver is one of “about 37 female representatives” from both parties among the 203 House members, she said.

“I would think that for any woman with a family it is challenging to balance family, children and the job,” Culver said. “It's a difficult balance, and you have to have your entire family committed to you participating in public service.”

She also believes that for generations, women weren't really pushed into running for public office.

“We see that changing,” she said Friday afternoon. “A lot of women's programs come down through Harrisburg. And we'll go down and meet with them before a session or during lunch and get a feel for what women are thinking.”

When you talk to the general population, Culver said, “Most people don't say, ‘I'm going to run for public office someday.' And that is why you have programs like Leadership Susquehanna Valley and similar programs, to get people to understand that every experience you have is beneficial to public service.”

Why more women don't hold leadership roles in Congress is an age-old question, she said. “But I think you'll begin to see a natural turnover of more women to run for office,” she said.

Beth Kremer, chairwoman of the Northumberland County Republican Committee, agrees.

“I'm hearing little girls saying, ‘I want to become president,'” Kremer said. “And that kind of thinking should be encouraged.”

Kremer, like Culver, said that balancing family, kids and job responsibilities is difficult and a tough decision for women to make when considering entering public service. “I didn't really get involved earlier when I was starting a family,” she said.

Penn State graduate Ferris Eanfar, an expert in international economics and politics, has posted a blog on the university's website on the topic.

“Regardless of gender,” Eanfar said, “you must have an extremely competitive and aggressive predisposition to even consider going into national-level politics. And to excel in national-level politics requires a nearly maniacal, single-minded competitive impulse. An electoral system that rewarded wisdom and discernment over competitive aggression would yield very different results, including participation from many more smart and educated women.”

Mississippi is No. 50 among states in female representation in elected office. New Hampshire ranks first.

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