For many years, activists and academics have explored the reasons why more women don't run for office and why more women aren't serving in elected office. Pennsylvania historically has trailed behind most other states in the number of women in elected office at all levels: local, state, and national. Our two panelists will discuss the specific ways they are engaging more women in the political process, recruiting more women to run, and helping women win campaigns while addressing the underlying obstacles facing women interested in running for office.
Siobhan “Sam” Bennett has served as the President and CEO of the Women’s Campaign Fund (WCF), The She Should Run Foundation, and WCF PAC since March 2009. Under Sam’s leadership, WCF and She Should Run's combined budget has more than doubled and the nonpartisan organization’s programmatic reach has expanded to every state in the country.
Sam also engineered She Should Run’s ground-breaking “Name It. Change It.” initiative to combat sexist attacks against female candidates by the media and fostered collaboration with many organizations; such as, White House Project, National Organization for Women, Women's Media Center, Feminist Majority, Running Start, and WUFPAC. Dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of women in elected office who support reproductive health choices for all, WCF and She Should Run have been featured in national newspapers, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, US News & World Report, Newsweek, and other top publications.
In 2004, Sam served as Lehigh Valley Regional Field Director for the now-defunct America Coming Together (ACT), a 501(c)4 non-partisan voter registration group. Her leadership was showcased in the award-winning documentary “Hollerback.” In 2001, Sam first ran for political office and nearly defeated a long-term state senator in the Allentown mayoral race. Prior to politics, Sam was a Fortune 500 corporate executive.
Christine Toretti is the former Chairman and CEO of the S. W. Jack Drilling Co., the largest privately-held land-based drilling company in the United States. Her astute business acumen, her ability to transcend gender-biases in the workplace, and her reputation as a business turn-around expert, make her a much sought-after advisor.
Christine is the Founder and Chair of both the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series in Pennsylvania and the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series in Arizona, training programs designed to educate, empower and advance Republican women.
Governor Tom Ridge so respected her leadership that fifteen years ago, he appointed her to Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and subsequently adopted a plan she crafted to fund investments in higher education in new and innovative ways. Governor Mark Schweiker appointed her as his representative on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. George W. Bush appointed her to the Rural Telephone Bank where she served as Vice Chair, to the National Petroleum Council, and to the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.
With a family tradition of political activism, Christine has been recognized as an extraordinary fundraiser for candidates and party organizations in the local, state, and national arenas. In 2007, she was elected Chair of the Committee of 200, an organization of the most influential female CEOs in the world. She is a founding member of the Belizean Grove.and currently serves as National Committeewoman of Pennsylvania to the Republican National Committee.
If you would ask Christine what is her prime motivation, she would say it is two-fold. First, her commitment to her three sons is paramount and she is compelled to political activism because of her concern for their future. Second, she has a deep commitment to women in great part to the experiences she encountered in the totally male-dominated oil and gas industry. She crosses the nation constantly to promote Republican candidates and had created an annual retreat for female corporate leaders from all over the world.
A recipient of numerous awards, she insists that her greatest gifts are her sons: Joe (25), Max (22), and Matthew (20). When available, she has coached their baseball teams and also challenged them on the ice in hockey.
Nell McCormack Abom has built a career telling stories and starting conversations with some of Pennsylvania's most compelling characters. From governors to death-row inmates, Nell delves deeply into the personalities and motivations of Pennsylvania's newsmakers -- always seeking the context of events that shape our communities.
For the last 12 years, she hosted WITF-TV’s Smart Talk, Central Pennsylvania's prime-time, award-winning public affairs program. The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Nell with an Emmy as Outstanding Program Host/Moderator, and Smart Talk was the recipient of numerous Emmy nominations and Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters' Association Awards.
Prior to joining WITF, Nell helped direct media relations for Pennsylvania Governors Tom Ridge and Bob Casey. Under Ridge, Governing magazine described it as "Pennsylvania's masterful P.R. machine." Nell directed and produced Pennsylvania's first-ever, multi-live-shot state budget address, wrote and co-produced the national award-winning live broadcast and webcast of the historic Pennsylvania Safe Schools Summit, and collaborated on the Emmy-winning documentary, Fighting Back: Pennsylvania's Special Session on Crime.
She is a summa cum laude graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. When she’s not in a TV studio, you’ll find Nell in the stands cheering for her three children, or arguing over politics and public policy with her criminal defense attorney husband. Either way, she couldn’t be happier.
Monday, April 7th, 2014
$15/per person ($10/students)
Journalists invited free of charge
Widener University School of Law
Administration Bldg. Room A180
3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110