Thursday night, Penn’s Women’s Political League hosted a small discussion with big ideas.
The intimate event welcomed three women with experience in government both at Penn and at national levels. 1963 College graduate and former United States Representative Marjorie Margolies joined Pennsylvania state Representative-elect Mary Jo Daley of Pennyslvania’s 148th district for a panel discussion that also included College sophomore and UA Representative Chinyere Agbai.
The purpose of the event was “to show three levels of females in government,” College junior Danielle Marryshow said. Marryshow, the president of the Women’s Political League, also emphasized the importance of “seeing from an insider perspective what it means to be a woman in government.”
To start things off, Marryshow asked whether any of the panelists had been asked to run for office.
Daley — who works as the financial and administrative officer at Penn’s Biomedical Research Service Center — said, “The first time [I ran], I didn’t have to be asked.”
However, she admitted that she was inspired to run a second time after hearing people ask, “How do we get more women in Congress?”
Agbai, who is also the vice president of the Women’s Political League, described her chance encounter with student government. One day, she received a mass email from a former economics professor encouraging women to run for campus government.
“I thought I might as well sign up to run after going to a meeting for Undergraduate Assembly,” Agbai said.
While Margolies was working as a journalist for NBC in Washington, covering congressional politics, she was asked directly to consider running for office.
She expressed the difficulties of running in the area that she had covered as a journalist. “At no point did I think I was going to win,” she said. “I only had a concession speech on election night.”
As the event progressed, Marryshow narrowed her focus to the topic of women in politics, asking, “Do you think your campaign was affected by gender?”
“Being a woman helped me,” Daley said, later explaining that being a woman meant representing the “things women and families were interested in,” such as health care and education.
“If I didn’t make women not being at the table an issue, no one would,” she added.
Margolies recounted an anecdote about a negative confrontation in her political experience. A woman once walked up and told her that she hated Margolies for her political positions.
Margolies said she replied to the woman, “I honestly think that if we got to know each other, I’d feel the same way.”
The panel also addressed the current problems in government. “This is just embarrassing,” Margolies said about the current state of Congress. “We have to look at the issues and get serious about them.”
After the event, students had the chance to give their feedback on the discussion. The speakers’ advice on taking risks resonated with College freshman Jane Meyer.
“You can’t win the game without getting on the field,” she said, recalling one speaker’s words.
Marryshow felt positive about the event’s outcome. The Women’s Political League wanted to “make sure that the attendees see that running for office isn’t so mystifying,” she said.
“Having women see themselves in that position is the first step,” she added.