Local
5:02 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Southwestern Pennsylvania High School Girls Learn the Ropes in Harrisburg

100 girls from Allegheny, Washington, Green, and Fayette counties spent Tuesday at the state capitol, shadowing lawmakers from their home districts. It's part of the second annual GirlGov effort aimed at attracting more Pennsylvania women to politics.

"Our state is ranked 42nd out of the 50 states for the representation of women in politics, so we want to encourage more women to run for office, and a great way to start is by engaging more girls in civics," said Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, which created GirlGov.

Each of the 50 participating lawmakers had two girls shadowing them. Not all of the elected officials involved were women. There aren't quite enough of them in the Pennsylvania General Assembly: there are currently 32 female members in the House and 11 in the Senate. But, the tide is slowly turning.

"More women are running, in fact we've seen a 300% increase since 2004 of women running for office, but we need more," said Arnet.

There are numerous efforts underway to get more women to run for office, including the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, and the Pennsylvania 2012 project.

Arnet added that the hope is that one day in Harrisburg will inspire the girls to get more involved in civic engagement in their communities.

The girls attended committee meetings and legislative sessions, and had a chance to talk with lawmakers about bills that would directly impact their lives. That includes the Gender Equity in Athletics Act, and a cyber-bullying bill.

Participating legislators include Senators Wayne Fontana and John Pippy, and Representative Chelsa Wagner, all from Allegheny County.