Men outnumber women by more than a 2-to-1 ratio on Erie County governmental committees, according to a report released today by the county's Commission on the Status of Women.
The commission's review of nearly 40 county boards and task forces is aimed at increasing the participation of women in county government.
Shirley T. Joseph, executive director of the women's commission, said that when women aren't included, the women of Erie County aren't being fairly represented.
"If women aren't included in the policy-making process, the policy that's ultimately made won't reflect the needs of women. It's that simple," Ms. Joseph said.
Ms. Joseph said the commission hopes to get the word out that there are qualified women across the county who would be assets to county committees as slots open. The women's commission is planning to develop a computerized list of qualified women to which county leaders can refer when filling future vacancies.
She said one way to get more women nominated and appointed to county panels is to bring them to the attention of those with appointment powers.
"I think more men are appointed because men are doing the nominating, for the most part, and they think of their male friends. I don't think it's a conscious choice not to pick a woman, it's just how the good old boys network operates," she said.
County Executive Gorski agreed the balance of males and females should be improved. He recalled the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly by men."
"Circumstances have changed somewhat, but not nearly enough," Gorski said.
"More women are serving on boards, but not nearly enough. More women are holding elective office, but not enough," he added, pledging to do what he can to appoint more women to county panels.
The commission reviewed the male-female breakdown of 35 county panels and found men out-numbered women 421 to 196. Six committees did not respond to the commission's survey.
Ms. Joseph said that while membership is heavily weighted on the male side, the overall involvement of women was higher than expected.
"There are women on the majority of the committees and task forces; there just are a lot of (commissions and task forces)," she said.
The commission is also distributing a booklet, titled Identifying Leadership Opportunities for Women: A Guide to Erie County Boards and Task Forces and How to Get Appointed.
The pamphlet is aimed at informing local women about the various committees involved in county policy-making.
The commission is also planning a review of local corporate boards to determine how well women are represented.