Students Tackle Issue of Lack of Women in Political Arena

Kelsey Evans left a weeklong seminar having learned a lot about Pennsylvania politics — and the lack of women in leadership roles in the political arena.

“The main takeaway from the week was that it is possible for anyone to run and work in government,” said Evans, an Allegheny College sophomore from New Kensington, Pennsylvania.  

Evans was one of three Allegheny students who recently attended The National Education for Women’s New Leadership Pennsylvania, a week-long “leadership and public policy institute designed to educate and empower young women for future political participation and leadership.” Throughout the week, participants discuss the role of women in politics and policymaking in Pennsylvania with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of women in politics.

Thirty-five students from colleges and universities across the state are invited to attend the annual institute at Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics, where Allegheny alumna Dana Brown serves as executive director. Allegheny juniors Marlie Parish, an English major from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, and Emily Scanlon, a political science major from Abingdon, Maryland, also represented Allegheny.

“The week was very rewarding and I learned a lot,” said Evans, who has not yet chosen a major. “The most valuable part of the experience was probably going to Harrisburg and actually seeing our elected leaders at work. It was really cool to see the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in session and to be in the hustle and bustle of politics.”

Participants are able to meet successful women leaders and attend workshops on networking, public speaking and strategic communication.

“Programs like this are important because they show real examples of women representatives and make people more aware of the lack of women in politics,” Evans said. “They also encourage young women to run for various positions at local, state and federal levels.”
Allegheny trustee Jennifer Daurora ’99 and eight other Allegheny alumni donated funds to cover the cost of sending Parish, Evans and Scanlon to the institute.

The program “ties in directly to (Allegheny’s) commitment to civility and the Civility Prize,” Daurora said, referring to the college’s annual Prize for Civility in Public Life. The prize honors two public figures, one conservative and one liberal, who argue passionately but with civility for their beliefs.

“We know from research that young people are not participating in the political process,” Daurora said.“I thought, this is an important time for women in general and how can we give our students just one more exposure to a program that may or may not impact their future career choices?

“I couldn’t care less if they go on to a career in politics or not, but having exposure to different people and ideas and opportunities will help them in their future endeavors,” she said.