The Harrisburg campus played a major role in the kickoff of the new Pennsylvania Women’s Forum Solutions Series this week when it hosted a talk by two nationally known figures about the role of women in politics.
More than 100 people gathered in the administration building Monday for lunch, networking and a frank discussion featuring Christine Toretti and Siobhan “Sam” Bennett titled “Run. Win. Serve.” Toretti is a well-known businesswoman with roots in the oil and gas industry who has served as a national GOP committeewoman. She founded the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, designed to educate, empower and advance Republican women. Bennett is president and chief executive officer of Women’s Campaign Fund, a nonprofit national network dedicated to achieving parity for women in public office.
Bennett began by citing gender research that shows women make decisions differently than men. Women are more likely to do what they were hired to do, “which is reach across the aisle and legislate,” Bennett said. Men run for power; women run to change the world, Bennett said.
Toretti cited U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who galvanized a bipartisan group of women senators that put together a plan which pulled the U.S. government out of shutdown this fall. “Women have a way of seeing what the end result should be and knowing how to do it without worrying about their egos,” she said.
Pennsylvanians have never elected a female governor or U.S. senator. The U.S. House of Representatives delegation includes one woman.
Toretti said she viewed a lack of confidence among women as a major factor. Bennett noted woman have to be asked, on average, six times before they will run for office. And that request has to come from people they trust. The key to electing more women, she said, is for women to encourage one another.
“We really believe we need more women and we will make a difference. We will advance our country but we have to work together,” Toretti said.
Nell McCormack Abom, long-time host of WITF’s former Smart Talk television show, moderated the program. Widener’s Law & Government Institute
is a supporting sponsor of the Pennsylvania Women’s Forum. The next luncheon event will be held Sept. 8 on the Harrisburg campus, with a focus on higher education.