Where Have All the Women Gone?

City council members will discuss the decline in female officeholders in Riverside County on May 31

logoRIVERSIDE, California – Where have all the women officeholders in Riverside County gone? A panel of women city council members will address that question on Wednesday, May 31, at the University of California, Riverside.

“Where Have All the Women Gone: Exploring the Causes for a Decline in Female City Council Members in Riverside County” begins at 5:30 p.m. and is part of the ongoing Randall Lewis Seminar Series presented by the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development. The seminar will be held at the College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), 1084 Columbia Ave., Riverside. It is free and open to the public. Reservations are requested as seating is limited and may be made online or by calling (951) 827-7830.

At one time there was a female majority on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors; the current board is all-male and has been since 1995. In the county’s 28 cities, individual women council members continue to serve, but over the past decade there has been a significant drop-off in the number of women seeking and winning city council seats in Riverside County.

Jennifer Merolla

Jennifer Merolla

Moderating the panel will be Jennifer Merolla, UCR professor of political science. 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 also examines the challenges and successes of being a female candidate running for office.


4 women

Clockwise from top left: Bonnie Wright, Jan Harnik, Tonya Burke, and Karen Spiegel.

Panelists who will discuss the decline in women elected to office in Riverside County are:

  • Karen Spiegel, Corona City Council member. Spiegel was elected Corona city treasurer in 1996, then won a seat on the City Council in 2002. She has served several terms as mayor.
  • Jan Harnik, mayor of Palm Desert. A 17-year resident of Palm Desert, she was elected to the City Council in 2010. She also is a board member of Southern California Association of Governments.
  • Tonya Burke, Perris City Council member. Burke, who was elected to the City Council in 2014, is a vocational counselor by profession and is working on a Ph.D. in organizational psychology.
  • Bonnie Wright, Hemet City Council member. Wright, who is the grants and loans manager for Eastern Municipal Water District, was elected to the City Council in 2012 and served as mayor in 2016.



Established in 2003, the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development (CSSD) explores the social, economic, political and environmental impacts that population growth and movement has on cities and local communities. Housed in the School of Public Policy, the center facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations in the community through its staff and affiliated faculty via research, joint conferences, workshops and public forums held at UCR and in the community.

The Randall Lewis Seminar Series is an ongoing program of the CSSD generously funded by Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Upland-based Lewis Operating Cos. The seminars focus on a wide range of regional sustainability topics such as air and water resources, infrastructure and transportation planning, affordable housing and the fiscal health of cities.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Tel: (951) 827-7830
E-mail: shayna.conaway@ucr.edu

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