Women make modest gains in Election 2008
More women serve in state legislatures, but the United States is far behind many other countries.
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Women’s advocates are hopeful that the examples of Senator Clinton and Governor Palin will spur more women, of all political stripes, to throw their hats in the ring. Both demonstrated how far one can go, even without the typical resume for high office. Clinton lacked executive experience and Palin had less than two years as governor of Alaska when she agreed to be Republican nominee John McCain’s running mate.Skip to next paragraph
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While women are inclined to wait to be asked to run for office, neither woman had to be invited. Palin had a particularly meteoric rise to national prominence, after taking on the Republican old-boys network of Alaska – a story that put her in Senator McCain’s sights.
In the end, come Inauguration Day in January, it will be two men taking the oath for the highest offices in the land. African-American parents can now point to President-elect Barack Obama as a role model for their kids.
But what about the parents of girls? Did the Clinton and Palin candidacies leave girls with a sense of possibility, or a feeling that you can run, but you can’t win?
In Monitor interviews, young women and their mothers said they felt the 2008 election demonstrated that gender and race are not impediments to running as a credible candidate, and that even though a woman still has yet to be elected president, Mr. Obama’s election helps pave the way for that to happen someday.
“Because Obama became the president, that’s another possibility for us, because he is a minority, and women are considered a minority group in the social world,” says Ashley Eden, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “So I think that also is a benefit for women as well.”
Her mother, Joni Eden, agrees. The election of Obama “gives our girls hope, but I think it gives everybody hope that they can ... be anything they want to be.”
The legions of young women who volunteered for the Obama campaign – to the frustration of Clinton supporters – are a testament to the sense of younger women these days that they feel empowered enough that they don’t have to vote their gender.
Advocates of women in politics hope that all these young women who volunteered, both Democrat and Republican, will turn that activism into running for office themselves someday.
“Definitely, I think that young girls know that women can go far,” says Katya Ruiz, a high school junior in suburban Orlando. “It’s not a question of knowing that. We know that. And I think we’re very empowered now.”
Her mother, Margarita Koblasz, an instructor in legal studies at the University of Central Florida, adds to the thought: “[That’s] different from the generation that we grew up in and different from the generation that our mothers grew up in. ... Now I’ve got a daughter saying of course women can be president, which wasn’t something we could be taught.”