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A recent study found that women legislators in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly — though small in number — are more effective at passing legislation than their male counterparts.
Researchers found, during the period they examined, that female legislators had a higher percentage of their sponsored bills signed into law — 9.7 percent — compared with their male counterparts at 9 percent.
It also found women legislators had an average of 18.2 co-sponsors on their bills, compared with male colleagues, who had an average of 17.1 co-sponsors.
The study examined bill sponsorship data from the 2013-2014 legislative term — a total of more than 3,800 bills. During the period the study looked at, women made up about 17 percent of the state’s 253 legislators, a number that is little changed since.
“By all the measures we examine within this report, the women legislators in the General Assembly could aptly described as few, but mighty,” noted the paper from the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.
Rating legislator effectiveness by number of bills passed and signed into law can be tricky, as the study acknowledges, because a legislator’s seniority can impact how effective they are. Additionally, if a legislator is or isn’t a member of the political party that holds the majority also has an impact, as the paper noted.
“Nearly all of the legislators we interviewed said that women were more likely to shop their legislation (or ideas for legislation) around to legislators who might be more successful in passing it. In some cases, this was women in the minority approaching those in the majority for sponsorship — a common strategy for men and women legislators,” the research noted.
“I’m always of the mind that I just want somebody to get it done,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery.
Additionally, researchers also found that similar to women legislators elsewhere, women in the state’s General Assembly sponsor more bills concerning women’s issues, such as protecting victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, expanding family leave and promoting gender equality. However, many women lawmakers are quick to note that they serve all their constituents and didn’t want to be labeled as only caring about one set of issues.
“I think that women do look at some of the issues that are relevant to women and families. But they will take up other issues, too,” said Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, who has served in the Senate since 2011.
“The big takeaway is — what if we had more women? Could we not be more collaborative? Could we not move the ball forward on certain policy issues?” said Dana Brown, executive director of the political center at Chatham that did the study.
Kate Giammarise: [email protected] or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.
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