PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s been 98 years since women gained the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution.
But since then women have had a difficult time getting elected to legislative bodies.
This year was different.
“Yesterday was a really good day for women in politics, and from our standpoint, a great day for the Commonwealth and a great day for America to have greater gender diversity,” says Dana Brown, director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.
For the first time ever, not one, but four, women were elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.
“It’s exciting,” says U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, a Forest Hills Democrat. “The delegation’s taken a real shift. We’re going to have four women in our delegation for the first time in our history to have that many in the Pennsylvania delegation, so that’s exciting.”
By seniority, Doyle is the dean or head of the 18 members of Congress elected from Pennsylvania.
“They’re going to hit the ground running and be a great new addition to the Pennsylvania delegation,” Doyle told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
They are Congresswomen-elect Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, Chrissy Houlahan of Delaware County, Mary Scanlon of Chester County, and Susan Wild of Lehigh County, all Democrats.
“Historically, Pennsylvania has not done so well in terms of gender diversity,” says Brown.
Brown says that is slowly beginning to change.
This year in Pennsylvania, eight women were nominated for the U.S. House, 19 woman were nominated for the Pennsylvania Senate, and 115 woman were nominated to the Pennsylvania House.
And many woman won, boosting the numbers in the state’s General Assembly.
The number of women in the state Senate will grow from seven to 12 and in the state House from 42 to 53, about one quarter of state lawmakers.
Brown says the presence of women should improve lawmaking.
“There is an increase in transparency. There is also an increase in bipartisanship. We know that women will have dialogue differently about public policy, meaning they’re more likely to use collaborative terms like we, instead of I,” Brown said.
Although no women were elected to Congress from western Pennsylvania, there was a bump in female state lawmakers from this region.
In Allegheny County alone, we went from one woman – Pennsylvania Rep. Anita Kulik — to seven, including Pennsylvania Sen.-elect Lindsey Williams, and Pennsylvania Reps-elect Valerie Gaydos, Sara Innamorato, Summer Lee, Natalie Mihalek, and Lori Mizgorski.
As for the new Congress, there will be 22 women senators and 96 House members for a total of 118 women, a new record.
But Dana Brown is quick to tell you — still not even with the men.