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Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Female leaders forge path

By Sydney Albert

Jo Ann Davidson, the first and to date only female speaker of the Ohio House of. . .

CELINA - Nearly 80 women serving in local leadership roles attended the Women in Leadership Luncheon on Tuesday, hearing from two speakers who have cleared the way for many women after them in Ohio politics.
Jo Ann Davidson served as the first, and to date only, female speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. Betty Montgomery was Ohio's first female attorney general, and the state's first female auditor. Both dedicate a significant amount of time to mentoring younger women on how to succeed in leadership, and both are involved in the Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute, which is dedicated to training women who want to enter politics, community and public service.
Both Davidson and Montgomery noted the lack of female elected officials, and Davidson said women were notoriously hard to recruit for political office because they tend to wait for someone else to ask them to run. Women like to be safe, and Davidson has even had some women say they would run only if they could be guaranteed a win.
"But not everything in life is a guarantee," Davidson said.
Davidson started running in political races before women were considered serious or "acceptable" candidates. After being heavily involved in men's campaigns, she finally decided that if she was going to be doing so much work, she'd like to have the position for herself.
She sometimes was given the short end of the stick and had no guarantee of success. She ran in "throwaway" races against male peers and didn't receive her party's endorsement to run for the legislature.
She was told by her male employer at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that she had no room for advancement. Yet she kept going. She did her jobs well, and she eventually became the first female Speaker of the Ohio House.
Montgomery said resilience and a never-give-up attitude were important traits for women to have. Working as an attorney, she said she'd seen the world at its worst, having overseen cases of murder and rape, but she chooses to remain an optimist. A bright attitude becomes embedded in people and gives them strength when they hit their lowest point, she said.
"You have to keep going until you find some traction," she said.
For a time in her early life, Montgomery was directionless and unsure of what she wanted to do. She hated every minute of law school. Only a few other women attended with her, and the men were constantly trying to "toughen them up," as if being in law school and being one of only a handful of women in the program didn't toughen them up already, she said.
Still, she never quit because "quitting is not a value." Even when she faced rejection for positions after graduation, she handled the situation with grace. "Who people choose to be when they get knocked down shows a tremendous amount of character," she added.
"Close doors gently, because somebody might want to open them up again," Montgomery said.
Montgomery advised women in male-dominated fields to learn to speak directly, as men tend to do, otherwise they might be tuned out.
Davidson said women shouldn't allow themselves to be pigeonholed, even if they are passionate for certain subjects. The two said while women still face certain obstacles, they were happy to see many more women's groups and organizations dedicated to helping one another succeed. When first starting out, they often felt alone, and now it feels like there's a support network.
Five students from Wright State University-Lake Campus also were recognized at the luncheon for their leadership potential, including Sarah Puthoff, Brianna Obringer, Ashley Berning, Erin Eley and Cheryl McDunnell.
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