First female Ohio House Speaker disheartened by latest statehouse scandals

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A former Ohio House Speaker who worked to create more opportunities for women in the statehouse is speaking out after reports of sexual harassment and sex scandals rock the capitol.

Jo Ann Davidson blazed an impressive political trail when she became the first woman to serve as Ohio House Speaker in 1995. When she took the job, women weren’t even allowed to wear pants on the House floor. Davidson takes pride in the institution and her time there, and the latest sex scandals and reports of sexual harassment have left her disheartened.

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“It shouldn’t be that way. Women should not have to worry about that,” Davidson said. “They should have an opportunity to feel that they are comfortable and they are safe in an environment and that there are people there to protect them.”

Davidson said she believes that the current House leadership is trying to follow in her footsteps and create a welcoming environment, but even she faced difficulties when she first picked up the gavel.

“The big question back then quite frankly was whether I was tough enough to do the job,” she said. “But I was also very aware that what kind of a job I did was going to have a major impression on women having the opportunity to be leaders in many other situations.”

Today, Davidson runs a leadership academy for women. She wants women to be leaders, to find their voices and report wrong doing, and to learn from her legislative victories.

Davidson reflected on her legislative success, including a hard-fought budget battle during a late night session when a newly proposed budget was supposed to be held over for one day, according to House rules.

“So I just shut down the session about midnight and opened it back up about 12:01am, so [it was] the next day,” Davidson recalled. She said the session became unruly, so she reached for the gavel to bring the chamber back in order, bringing it down onto the glass in front of her that held the seating chart.

“So I cracked the gavel down and cracked the glass and it just flew every place,” she said. “I broke the glass ceiling. Literally.”

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