Rare voices: Pittsburgh women in politics

Women’s voices are uncommon on the Pennsylvania political scene.

In fact, the state ranks 47th in the nation in terms of female representation and participation in politics.

That’s one reason photographer Martha Rial took a closer look at the political lives of three women of different generations in the region.

From them, she found that the issue of gender in politics hasn’t changed much in 50 years.

On the floor of Congress, only one of the 21 people who represent Pennsylvania is female. And the female population -- which makes up 51 percent of its citizens -- has yet to see a woman serve as governor or U.S. Senator.

At the local level, the gender gap is equally dramatic.

"Fifty-seven percent of our county councils have not one female voice," said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.

In Allegheny County, four of the 15 council members are women. That means 27 percent of the council is female, yet women make up 52 percent of the county.

How many of the 85 locally elected mayors and executives that govern the boroughs and townships in Allegheny County are women?

Six. That amounts to just 7 percent of the group.

Tina Doose, council president of Braddock Borough -- a neighborhood east of Pittsburgh -- is one of the three politicians included in Rial’s work.

“The good old boys’ club still exists,” Doose said. “And it’s not going away anytime soon, or easily.”

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  • Well done, Martha Rial! I appreciate your ability to bring your unique photo documentary style to this important issue - that isn't discussed often enough in our community. Come on, women of PGH, PA and the US. Where are you? Who are you not to be great? I know Heather Scarlett Arnet, Erin Molchany, Jeanne Clark are women who spend their lives working on these issues - and willing to lead on this. Where are we? Why haven't we moved this forward in 2012? - by Bernie Lynch on June 27, 2012 - 9:57am
  • As always Martha.....you are speaking truth to power! Inerestingly all three are born n' raised here......as another with the same start and an history of working with and for the women who matter.....we thank you for this. The good ol' boys will only sit up when we get more checks written to support women........hear that Mike? - by MaryAlice Gorman on June 29, 2012 - 12:29am
  • Inspiring! Thanks - by Roy Art Saves Lives on June 30, 2012 - 6:55pm
  • These statistics are alarming. If I didn't dislike politics so much, I'd run for something. - by Kathryn Spitz Cohan on June 27, 2012 - 9:20am
  • Way to go, Emily! You are going to be a great voice for change. Love you! - by Patricia M. DeMarco on August 20, 2012 - 10:02am
  • Natalia Rudiak and Chelsa Wagner for Congress! and conversely, for the gender gap in 2012 election coverage, read: http://www.4thestate.net/female-voices-in-media-infographic/#.T-sX1o6uGs0. - by Carolyn P. Speranza on June 27, 2012 - 10:27am
  • Back at my other home in Bremerton, WA, our mayor, state senator, Governor and both US Senators are women. It CAN be done. Hey Bernie, you have the political chops and the connections - when do we see your name on a ballot? - by Mike Schiller on June 28, 2012 - 10:35am
  • "How many of the 85 locally elected mayors and executives that govern the boroughs and townships in Allegheny County are women? Six." - by Amos Levy on June 26, 2012 - 7:45pm
  • Thanks Martha. Raising awareness is so important. Great idea! - by Carol Maurin on June 27, 2012 - 7:53pm