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September 29, 2016

Study finds women underrepresented in mayoral roles throughout top American cities

A new study that takes a look at women's representation in local government has come to a not-so-shocking discovery – the percentage of female mayors throughout the country is lower than that of female representation within congressional offices.

Philadelphia, which has never had a female mayor, is no exception.

The study, called "Who Runs Our Cities? The Political Gender Gap in the Top 100 U.S. Cities," published by the City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance's Equality Indicators, broke down the numbers.

Almost 34 percent of city councilmembers in the top 100 U.S. cities are women, while about 18 percent of elected mayors in the top U.S. cities are women. The study found that this statistic may simply be because women are not running for office.

About 19 percent of mayoral candidates in those 100 cities were women – when women do run, they perform almost as well as their male counterparts.

To compare, almost 25 percent of state legislatures are made up of women, while just 19 percent of Congress is.

The study also found that the number of newly elected female mayors dropped by more than half in the early 2000s compared to the 1990s, when the U.S. saw a surge in women being elected into mayoral roles.

The study did note, however, that while the nation is on the path toward exceeding the record set two decades ago, 34 of the top U.S. cities have never elected a woman as mayor – that includes three of the top U.S. cities: New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

While Philadelphia has never had a female mayor, the study did note that 33 percent of elected officials are women, while City Council is 35 percent female.

The study also said that compared to their male colleagues, women elected into office make more strides toward change – they introduce not just more legislation, but a wider range of legislation that touches on many policy issues, from education to infrastructure. Women have also been found to be more transparent and work better collaboratively, according to the study.

Two women ran for office against former Councilman Jim Kenney in Philadelphia's most recent mayoral election. Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham lost the Democratic nomination against Kenney in 2015. Melissa Murray Bailey ran as the Republican candidate.

Kenney won by a landslide, receiving 85 percent of the vote. Philadelphia hasn't elected a Republican mayor since the 1940s.