Some voters have met Clintons campaign with skepticism; they want a woman, just not this woman. But the gender gap explains why she makes perfect sense
The US is the closest its ever been to breaking the 240-year male stronghold on the presidency. Though American women have made some political gains during that period, there has only been one woman so far with a real chance of smashing that glass ceiling: Hillary Clinton.
And yet some women, especially young women, have greeted Clintons historic candidacy with muted enthusiasm.
I want there to be a woman president, of course, said Maria Alcivar, a graduate student at Iowa State University and reluctant Clinton supporter. I just dont see why it had to be her.
Across the country over the last 18 months, several women have expressed similar sentiments: a wish that the potential first female leader was someone less flawed and less polarizing.
Experts say there is no predictable route to the presidency for a female candidate, not least because the trail is still being blazed. But there is a case to be made that the first woman to get this close to the presidency would probably look a lot like Clinton: a nationally recognizable figure with an extensive rsum and close proximity to power.
Theres a saying, the first into battle needs to wear the most armor, said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which studies women running for executive office.
She continued: Because women have higher and harder barriers to clear the path to executive office, the women that win need to exceed expectations so by comparison they tend to be more qualified than their opponents.
A 2011 study identified what the researchers called the Jackie (and Jill) Robinson effect, a reference to the first African American player in Major League Baseball. Robinson broke baseballs color barrier in 1947 and by no coincidence, according to the theory, he remains one of the best players of all time.
The study found that female lawmakers outperform their male colleagues, introducing more legislation and delivering more financial projects to their home districts. This, the researchers suggest, is the result of underlying gender discrimination, which narrows the prospective pool of female candidates down to only the most qualified, talented and politically ambitious.
One of the reasons its taking so long to elect a woman president is because very few women have actually run for president, said Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. The first may have been Victoria Woodhull in 1872, nearly 50 years before women won the vote, and 136 years before Clintons first competitive campaign in 2008.
The gender gap leaves a very narrow pipeline to the top, Lawless said. The most common route to the US presidency is through the Senate or a governors mansion, which greatly narrows the pool of prospective female candidates, since there are currently only 20 women serving in the 100-strong US Senate, 84 congresswomen (19%) and six female governors.
Patricia Schroeder, a former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination in 1987, has spent a lot of time over the last 18 months thinking about what has changed for women since she first entered Congress in 1973.
Sexism is a lot harder to pinpoint than it was but its clearly still there, she said.
When Schroeder first arrived in Congress she faced questions from her male colleagues about how she managed to raise two small children while being a lawmaker. On one occasion she snapped back: I have a brain and a uterus and I use both. She was also advised never to wear green. It apparently was not a power color.