Hillary Clinton didn’t get there, and now she never will, but Americans are poised for a woman president someday, maybe sooner than we think.
What needs to change in order to do that is the over-arching strategy of a female-lead political campaign.
Trying to be like a “man” or to run on strength alone clearly doesn’t work, but as history shows with Patricia Schroeder’s attempt at the nomination in ’87, it seems like our societal norms prevent women from running a more “gendered” campaign, too.
That’s why people said that Hillary seemed cold and ruthless, but really those traits in a male-lead campaign would have been completely accepted. Defying social norms leads to rejection of authenticity, but conforming to them leads society to reject the seriousness of the candidate because they don’t conform to what they expect from a leader. Of course when all of your leaders have been men, a female leader with a *gasp* different style will always look unfamiliar and be met with scepticism.
Really the way campaigns are expected to be run is just as much a problem as the everyday sexism that leads to it. Despite this, data shows that women are just as likely to be elected to public office when they run. The problem is that they are far less likely to try!
This speaks to the confidence of women to run for office, and I think that one of the issues is that we focus too much on confidence when educating women as opposed to men.
I’m a teacher and one thing I see in all levels of education, including the all-girls high school I teach at here in Japan, is teachers trying to teach confidence as though it was a skill on its own. Confidence comes from being good at something, having flow in your work and knowing that you could do it if you tried.
Part of the problem is that so many educators and mentors try to teach their female students and mentees to “be confident” rather than teaching them the skills that lead them to self-confidence and belief. Surprise, surprise, like a study from the University of Waterloo showed, self-affirmations and “talking yourself confident” doesn’t work unless you are already confident.
By contrast educators, perhaps unconsciously, teach men skills and nurture their talents rather than just telling them to be confident, they improve their confidence by helping them to achieve something. Education, and I mean helping all people, men and women, to nurture their natural skills and talents, is the way forward.
Once a woman does break through that “highest and hardest glass ceiling”, I’m sure whoever she is will make a fantastic president.