Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In progressive Pennsylvania, history is holding women back

(Justin Surgent / Daily Collegian)

A few weeks ago, the United States celebrated Women’s Equality Day. Almost one hundred years ago, on Aug. 26, 1920, the became law and women were granted the right to vote. As a young woman who has just recently started voting, I know what an important day it is to celebrate.

But this year, prior to Women’s Equality Day, a study came out examining gender equality in the workplace. WalletHub, a personal finance company, conducted a report that ranked gender equality in the workplace across all fifty states. I read the report to find that my home state of Pennsylvania ranked forty-fourth out of fifty states, according to the “fifteen key indicators of gender equality” used in the study.

As I kept reading, I found out that Pennsylvania ranks second in the largest political participation gap and has a terrible track record on gender equality. While Pennsylvania has voted democratic in national elections until very recently, the state legislature is and has been controlled by Republicans. Pennsylvania has never had a female governor and women only make up 18.6 percent of the state legislature. Former attorney general of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane, the state’s first elected female and Democratic attorney general, was found guilty on nine criminal charges in August 2016.

“Despite boasting one of the largest, most expensive and most professionalized Legislatures in the land, Pennsylvania ranked second from bottom nationwide in political empowerment,” writes PennLive. Pennsylvania had the chance to elect its first female senator during the 2016 election, but the Democratic nominee, Katie McGinty, was beaten by incumbent Senator Pat Toomey. McGinty was only the 10th woman to run in a Senate primary for either party in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is just one state, but women’s equality is still a national issue. On Aug. 29, 2017, the Trump Administration issued a stay, stopping the collection of gender pay data by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This collection wasn’t slated to start until 2018, but this isn’t an issue that can be put off. While important states like Pennsylvania continue to score so poorly, the federal government should be doing more to study and combat gender inequality, not less. Women are still underrepresented in the workforce and in politics.

Even in a state like Pennsylvania, where 51 percent of the population is women, there isn’t a single woman representing the state in the United States Senate or House of Representatives. Only 19 percent of the seats in the Pennsylvania General Assembly are held by women. This disparity doesn’t encourage women to run for office or get involved in politics. Known as the “role model effect,” a recent study found that having female role models in government will encourage young women to pursue politics.

I have never seen a woman be the mayor of my town, the governor of my state, or hold most of the high offices in Pennsylvania. The only female politician Pennsylvanians have to look up to is Kathleen Kane—and she was a criminal. How is a little girl from my home state supposed to know that she can be anything she wants in life, when her surroundings send a different message?

It’s disheartening to see that in 2010, women in my hometown county only averaged 64 cents in income for every dollar a man earned. For my current county, one of the most progressive counties in Pennsylvania, the amount was only 68 cents. Only women in Philadelphia had more than 80 percent of the earning power of men. This divide is growing, while Pennsylvania is doing little to get women more involved.

Research from the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics found “when women are elected to office they are more likely to advocate for women’s issues, are more successful at guiding legislation through the legislative process, and can help create a more collaborative lawmaking environment.” Why aren’t we talking more about this? Last year, people paid more attention to the idea of a woman being president (which is important), but much less to the idea of women in state positions or in Congress. It’s possible that Pennsylvanians may not be paying attention to women in these more local races because they may be seen as less important in light of more pressing financial issues. But having more women in government could be the key to helping Pennsylvania solve big issues like the current budget crisis.

Pennsylvania is only one example, but these issues are problems at the national level. If the Trump administration doesn’t gather EEO data, the gender gap might get worse—as it already has in individual states.

States need to encourage women to get involved in politics, in order to address disparities in political participation. We need more research on these gaps so that we cannot only close the national pay gap, but also the participation gap. Girls in Pennsylvania, just like girls across the nation, need to have women in government to look up to and need to be paid the same as men if we’re ever going to reach equality in this country.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    NitzakhonSep 11, 2017 at 10:19 am

    So you vote based on whether someone has a vagina or not?