Hillary Clinton made history last week. She is the first woman ever to run for the office of the President of the United States of America as the candidate for a major party. As I watched the Democratic National Convention proceedings before the run up to the finale where she accepted the nomination, I was reminded of the historical significance of the moment.
- Whilst we in India have had a woman head of state, in the U.S. it still is a glass ceiling that has not yet been broken. In recent years, almost a 100 years after American women won the right to vote, the office of President was still seen by many as an unattainable goal. In 1995, Walmart pulled out a t-shirt line which had the phrase, “Someday a woman will be President.” These attitudes are not fully gone. Recently when I was in the U.S., I heard from several people that they would prefer to vote for a man rather than a woman regardless of qualifications.
- Gender stereotypes can negatively affect views of Clinton as competitive, aggressive and manipulative. Feminine traits of being facilitative or caring are not at all linked to leadership. Whilst her campaign may have been about issues and we have heard a lot about her “listening tours”, many people still rate her competency based on her oratorical skills, even though President Barack Obama said there is no other candidate better “prepared” than her.
- There is so much inherent media bias against a woman candidate’s campaign to run for office that it gives her an unfair disadvantage against her male peers. A Harvard University study recently confirmed that the media tore down the Clinton campaign whilst shoring up her male opponents. Shockingly, just days ago after her acceptance of the nomination, her husband’s picture was on the front page rather than hers, ignoring the historic moment.
- Over 20 years ago, Clinton put women’s rights at the front and centre of the global stage by announcing at the United Nations 4th World Conference for Women in Beijing, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” Ironically, this past week, we are looking to her to shatter the final glass ceiling that will in so many ways make women equal to men. Her long career is testimony to the fact that she has worked tirelessly to make this happen and that the words uttered in Beijing were not mere rhetoric. We hope she will continue to make it a priority and lead by example.
- Finally thanks to her, we may have the first woman President of the United States but she will definitely not be the last. As she aptly put it, “When there are no ceilings, the sky is the limit.”
There is no turning back now. For all women and girls everywhere, this is a historic moment, irrespective of your politics. A barrier has been broken, a door is open and we can aspire for more without having our “gender” hold us back.