Opinion: Women send a message throughout halls of government

As we reflect on the 2018 midterm election results, there is a notable trend nationwide and in Pennsylvania. A record number of women ran for office and won seats at both the national and local level.

According to data acquired by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, the number of women in the Pennsylvania General Assembly will rise from 19 percent to about 25 percent. A total of 134 women ran for the General Assembly this year, and 63 won – 52 in the House and 11 in the Senate. In the state House where I serve, Democrats picked up 11 seats to make the count there 110 Republicans to 93 Democrats.

The 116th Congress will have at least 125 women serving, where women will represent 23 percent of total seats, reaching a step closer to Vision 2020’s goal of a 50-50 shared representation among men and women. In Pennsylvania, we will go from having no women in our congressional delegation to having four represent our southeast region in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2010, I was the first woman elected mayor in the borough of West Chester. Since then, I have continued to work and promote women’s issues. After I was elected as state representative for the 156th Legislative District, I was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. The commission is a bipartisan organization that works as an advocate and advisor to the governor on policies and legislation that impact women; supports economic and civic opportunities for women; encourages mentoring programs for girls and young women; identifies programs and opportunities for the benefit and advancement of women; and serves as a resource center for Pennsylvania women.

Fortune 500 studies have shown that when a corporate board or leadership team reaches 30-percent women, the culture shifts to one that is more collaborative and solution-finding, and the bottom line goes up by at least 6 percent. These are corporate studies, but I believe the same dynamics would apply when electing a critical mass of women to office. 

2018 has been called the “Year of the Woman,” playing out at the ballot box with huge gains for women across our region, state and country. These gains set the stage for a much needed shift to a more collaborative, solution-finding culture in Harrisburg and Washington.