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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Local female figures discuss politics, voting


Students and professors from Gannon University’s history, philosophy, English, sociology and other departments joined together at the Knight Club Monday to discuss women in politics and the right to vote.

The discussion was part of the Women’s Tea and Conversation series held by the Center for Social Concerns and featured three women involved in local government: Angela McNair from the Erie School Board; Joyce Savocchio, former Erie mayor; and Judy Lynch, Ph.D., former Erie County Executive.  Gretchen Fairley, Gannon’s director of service learning, and Erika Ramalho, director of community and government relations, moderated the panel.

Fairley eased those attending into the discussions with a short presentation on statistics of women’s votes and women in government.  There were no women in Congress until the 65th Congress in 1916.

“There’s still a very, very small percentage of women who are in higher offices in our country,” Fairley said.

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Since women’s suffrage has been established for nearly 100 years, modern women don’t feel the need to fight in political matters, Fairley said.

“But in many ways women still have to do that,” Fairley said.

The panel speakers all spoke about their personal experiences as women in politics, beginning with McNair.

McNair said a friend encouraged her to run for the school board and she never imagined herself becoming an elected official.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” McNair said.

A mother of five and the director and owner of the Jumpstart Early Learning Center, McNair said she has also been heavily involved in community service.

“I wanted to take community service to the next level,” McNair said of volunteering on the school board.

McNair said she saw her position as an opportunity to see how students and families could benefit from the school system.

“It’s something that’s rewarding when you see some of the things can bring to the table,” McNair said.

Unlike McNair, Savoccio knew she wanted to run for Erie City Council after experiencing gender discrimination in high school.

When her teacher chose a boy to act as Sen. John Kennedy in a debate, she said she had a feminist moment before it existed.

Later, the boy backed out and she was asked to play the role of Kennedy and Savoccio said she couldn’t say no.

“I began to understand the power of a woman with the power to call the shots,” Savoccio said.

Savoccio said coming into Erie City Council was something she knew would happen, but it took two years and a lot of thought to decide to run for mayor.

“I think I’m the most reluctant mayor Erie’s ever had,” Savoccio said.

Lynch said her brother encouraged her to pursue a position in local government after she saw an ad in the paper.

“County government is the most complex form of government there is — bar none,” Lynch said.

“I happen to believe politics is the highest calling,” Savoccio said. “It’s not dirty; the people are.”

Lynch and Savoccio worked together during Savoccio’s term as mayor and remained friends.  Savoccio said people probably expected a cat fight, but they didn’t have that problem because they wanted the same things.

“We bring people together,” Savoccio said of women politicians.

Savoccio’s advice to women interested in politics was to keep fighting for equality in the workplace and in government.

“I want women to have equal representation, because until we do, we are going to remain divided,” Savoccio said.

Lynch said students interested in politics should think about the things that push them to run for office or other positions.

“Know what your interest is and then pursue that and let elected officials know that should have their utmost attention,” Lynch said.

Leigh Tischler, a junior English major, said she attended the talk because she heard what it was about and she was stressed out about voting.

“I thought it was incredibly interesting,” Tischler said.

After hearing so much about feminism to the point of being tired of it, Tischler said the talk brought it into a new light.

“To see two women who have been in Erie government for so long was pretty amazing,” Tischler said.

Other opportunities for students interested in gender equality include two Smart Start workshops that will discuss tips on things like salary negotiation March 21 and April 5.

The locations of the workshops are to be determined, but those interested can contact Laura Goble at [email protected].


[email protected]

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