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Where Have All the Women Gone?: Exploring the Causes for a Decline in Female City Council Members in Riverside County

May 31st, 2017

Over the past decade, there has been a significant drop in the number of women running for and winning city council seats in Riverside County. Where within recent memory there was a female majority on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, at present the Board is all-male and has been since 1994. In the county’s 28 cities, individual women council members continue to lead, but there has been a drop-off in the number of women seeking and holding local office.

This program will explore that decline, the reasons for it and why it is a bad outcome for local government. Come hear four incumbent female council members – one of whom does have a female majority on council discuss this phenomenon. Our panel will be led by Political Science Professor Jennifer Merolla.


Karen Spiegel
Karen Spiegel began her political career as the elected City Treasurer for the City of Corona in 1996. She was elected to City Council in 2002 and has served the City of Corona since, serving several terms as Mayor.

Jan Harnik
Jan Harnik moved to the Coachella Valley in 1977 and has lived in Palm Desert for 17 years. She was elected to City Council in 2010, currently serves as Mayor and is also a board member of Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)

Tonya Burke
Tonya Burke was elected to Perris City Council in 2014. She is a vocational counselor by profession and is currently working on a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. She is active in promoting women for public office.

Bonnie Wright
Bonnie Wright is the Grants and Loans Manager for Eastern Municipal Water District. She was elected to City Council in 2012 after serving as a business owner and Congressional field representative. She was Hemet’s mayor in 2016.

Jennifer Merolla
Jennifer Merolla is Professor of Political Science at UC Riverside. Her research focuses on how the political environment shapes individual attitudes and behavior across many domains, such as candidate evaluations during elections and support for democratic values and institutions. She received her PhD in Political Science from Duke University in 2003.