Pittsburgh City Planning Commission members LaShawn Burton-Faulk (top left), Becky Mingo, Christine Mondor and Rachel O'Neill, from screenshots taken from the commission's virtual meeting on Nov. 10, 2020. (Photo illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)

Mayor: Pittsburgh’s board tilt toward diversity is no accident

Eight women and one man sit on Pittsburgh’s City Planning Commission. Mayor Bill Peduto would like to adjust that ratio. “I would love to have Pittsburgh be the first city in America to have a planning commission that is 100% women,” the mayor said, in an interview this month. Asked whether men might look askance at that goal, he reasoned that a powerful, all-female board would send a signal that the city was addressing a historical imbalance. “All we have to do is look at the past five decades, when it was all men, [or] there may have been one woman appointed” to the commission.

Left to right: Alberto Benzaquen, of Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations; Cori Frazer of the City-County Task Force on Disabilities; and Morgan Overton of the Gender Equity Commission are helping to diversify the region's power structure in ways that weren't even envisioned 15 years ago. (Photos by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

All on board? Powerful Pittsburgh-area panels are more diverse, but progress is uneven

Women hold nearly half of the seats on major boards and commissions that make many decisions in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and Black residents hold more than one in every four, PublicSource has found as part of the year-long Board Explorer project. Both figures represent steps toward greater diversity in the region’s power structure. In 2005, women occupied fewer than ⅓ of seats on county and city boards, according to a study done then by Carnegie Mellon University students in partnership with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. Black residents held 23% of the seats for which the race of the member was known in 2005, but now hold 28%. Presented with PublicSource’s findings, diversity advocates were united in one sentiment: Progress is no cause for complacency.