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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

McCormack Grad School Panel Discussion

On March 6, the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston hosted a panel discussion about the book “Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Political Leadership” written by Carol Hardy-Fanta. Fanta was formerly the director of the Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy (CWPPP) graduate program at UMass Boston.
The discussion panel also welcomed Ann Bookman, who is currently the directory for the CWPPP. Michelle Wu was also present, the Boston City Council President, along with Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color to be elected to Boston’s City Council. Pressley currently is a representative for Boston City At-Large. Lastly, Paul Watanabe was on the discussion panel. Watanabe is currently the director of the Institute for Asian American Studies and professor of Political Science at UMass Boston. Graduate and undergraduate students attended the event in the Campus Center.
Fanta’s book was released in September 2016, and was a project that began 25 years ago.  According to Bookman, Fanta’s book is “the first and only multi-racial comprehensive study of Black, Latino, Asian, and American-Indian elected officials,” adding, “[it’s] a very significant publication.”
According to Fanta, the data collection presented in the book focuses on presenting “jurisdictional data” to understand “what percent of members of Congress, legislators, school committees,” were representative of “key political issues.” The data collection Fanta has gathered is “national in scope,” according to Bookman.
Fanta stated to the audience that to gather such data required various methods of reaching out to people individually for surveys; one of the strategies used was telephone surveys. The data collection presents over 10,000 elected officials in the US who have been interviewed and are represented in Fanta’s data.
 “[…] we need now more than ever this book to deepen our understanding of how gender and sexism… can constraint a woman’s ability to become elected to public office… how race and racism can constraint both men and women of color from becoming elected,” stated Bookman.
Bookman stated her concern for the recent election and how according to Fanta’s data in 2017, out of 200 legislators in Massachusetts, only twenty are officials of color and only five out of twenty are women of color.   
Boston City Council President Michelle Wu stated that as she herself is a practitioner in politics.
“It was weird to see myself represented in data,” said Michelle Wu, whose family is from Taiwan. She added, “[I] appreciated the recognition.”
Fanta’s data also presents that over time, the number of elected officials representative of minorities have increased. The number of black elected officials has increased to 34 percent since 2012, while the Latino group has increased to 34 percent; the percentage of elected white women has also increased from 15 percent to 27 percent in the US.
Bookman stated that progress has still been rather slow in Massachusetts. Pressley voiced that women who are elected into office usually tend to stay in the same office. Pressley asked if this is an implication that there is a “lack of progress.” According to Bookman, the recent presidential election had “injected racism.”
Pressley left the audience with this question: “How do you build a coalition when there is a deep divide between race and gender?”