Sunday, July 13, 2014

Conferences aims to help women run for office

February 01. 2014 10:37PM
By Ralph Nardone Times Leader correspondent

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SCRANTON — About 20 percent of government leaders in Pennsylvania are women, which is one of the lowest percentages in the United States, according to educators at the University of Scranton.

With news headlines repeatedly trumpeting the foibles of male politicians and the long list of local corrupt male politicians being thrown out of office or in jail, a more honest future may lie in the laps of women, Scranton representatives say.

There is lots of research to suggest women politicians function with more ‘transparency,’ are more ‘accountable’ and work more through collaboration and building consensus, according to Jean Harris, Ph.D. in political science and women’s studies at the Scranton.

To encourage local women to seek office, Harris spearheaded a full-day conference on Saturday titled “Ready to Run.” The conference focused on women in Northeast Pennsylvania interested in running for public office, working on a campaign, getting appointed to office or learning more about the political system, she said.

Women have different “priorities” than their male counterparts, Harris said. Whether Democrat or Republican, they tend to be more “liberal” and more concerned with the “less-advantaged,” Harris said.

“It was the women in Congress who solved the recent government shutdown,” Harris proclaimed.

About 50 people interested in seeking office or just wanting to learn about what it takes to run attended the conference.

They heard from nine successful local politically involved women, including Lackawanna County Judge Margie Bisignani Moyle, former Republican Executive Director Renita Fennick and state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township.

They were given how-to instructions on running for office, including sample filing documents, real-world advice, positioning strategies and a better understanding of Pennsylvania politics, according to Harris.

The biggest hurdle women face is “self-criticism,” Harris said.

Plus they need to take a lot of initiative to gain office where most men are asked to run, she said.

“Women have to work harder just to be considered,” she said.

Women are often too busy to run for office because they do more “balancing” of work and family responsibilities, Harris added. But when they do they are older and take their “life experiences” to their offices with them, she added.

Women make our democracy more inclusive and more responsive to the concerns of all citizens, Harris said.

Saturday’s program was developed to encourage and support any local women considering political office, she said. The event was scheduled to prepare them in time to meet the upcoming Feb. 15 deadline for collecting candidacy petitions in Pennsylvania.

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