The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 22, 2008

State, region lag behind nation in women legislators


‘Timing is everything’

In some cases, though, working women simply are choosing to stay near their families rather than spend part of the year in Harrisburg.

That was a key factor in Wilson’s decision not to seek state office this year, although some lobbied for her to run.

With a full-time job, her City Council post and three children at home, Wilson said she “couldn’t see myself serving the people of this district and my family.

“There’s a part of me that would have loved to run,” she said. “Timing is everything, and I had to make a decision. It is not a 9-to-5 job.”

Wagner said that is a common sentiment among women, who sometimes wait until their children have grown before entering politics.

That is a highly personal decision, but it also can damage a lawmaker’s chance at gaining seniority and influence.

“With women, you see very few who are doing this at an early stage in their careers,” Wagner said, adding that she agrees that a legislator’s obligations are unpredictable.

“You never know when your schedule’s changing,” she said. “You never know where you’re going to be in Harrisburg, especially during budget season.”

‘Getting involved’

Uncertainty regarding legislative work hours and travel will not change.

But some are hoping to encourage more women to run by offering programs designed to alleviate uncertainty about politics.

Too often, advocates say, women “wait to be asked” to run for office rather than volunteering. Wilson said she is frustrated that, when it comes to politics, many women don’t seem to believe in their own abilities.

“The smartest women I meet will tell me they don’t know enough to run for school board,” she said.

A GOP-affiliated effort, dubbed the Anne Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, is aimed at increasing “the number and influence of Pennsylvania’s Republican women in government and politics,” according to its Web site.

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