HARRISBURG — The Capitol dome is a beautiful green tile.
But it also has a glass ceiling.
The upper echelon positions in the Legislature, Senate pro tempore, speaker of the House, minority and majority leaders, have always been held by men.
“The culture in this place is as stuffy and dusty as my grandfather’s attic,” Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) said at a news conference this week.
Kim said she is frustrated at recent revelations that leaders approved a quarter-million dollar, taxpayer-funded harassment settlement for Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-Berks) and kept it quiet. Kim says time should be up for those leaders.
“I really believe that we need to have more of a diverse leadership, whether it be more women or people of color,” Kim said, “so that we have all different perspectives at the big decision-making table, so we can have better laws and better policies for our caucuses.”
Caucus sexual harassment policies are under the microscope and under fire. Female lawmakers and staff learned through news reports that Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware) is accused of sexually assaulting two women who work at the Capitol. Leadership reportedly knew of the allegations for weeks but said nothing.
Unacceptable, says Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware).
“This is not a new problem,” Krueger-Braneky said. “This has been happening in the Capitol for years, we know that. Often, we have not had a victim-centered approach. We’ve had caucus leaders who have protected members to the detriment of the staff. It’s time for that to change.”
Leadership positions in the Legislature are voted upon by the members, and women rarely seek those positions. If they don’t run for them, they can’t win them.
“There’s a lot of faith in the leadership of women,” said Jennifer Kocher, Senate Republican spokesperson. “Just because those two particular positions are not filled by women doesn’t mean that women do not hold prominent positions here.”
It’s true that women hold management positions in the caucuses and elected women do chair committees.
“Thankfully, we are experiencing the beginning of a cultural shift that should’ve happened years ago,” Kim said.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the late K. Leroy Irvis was the first African American to serve as a speaker of the House in any state Legislature since Reconstruction.
He remains the only person of color to have held any of those top three leadership positions in Pennsylvania.