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Women In Politics: Why Hillary Clinton Is Unlikely To Become President

via Flickr/MarcNozell

If Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, will she win? According to political science professor Farida Jalalzai, the odds are not in Clinton’s favor. Jalalzai recently wrote an article for the Washington Post elaborating on that thought.

“The institutions that are in place in the United States, which seem like a daunting obstacle for women to surpass, are still going to be in place,” said Jalalzai, who is associate professor and political science department chair at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of Shattered, Cracked or Firmly Intact? Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide.“The baggage that she seemed to carry in 2008 will still be there….We have so many expectations placed on her that are positive, but to what extent is it realistic to expect that she can do this in 2016 when she couldn’t do it in 2008?”

Jalalzai appeared on St. Louis on the Air May 28, 2014 with her fellow university employee, Vivian Eveloff, the founder and director of UMSL’s Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. The two spoke of the barriers Hillary Clinton and other women face when running for political office.

Gendered Political Attacks

Although Hillary Clinton has not yet said whether or not she is running for president in 2016, counter-campaigns are already in place. There have been comments on her age, health and even the fact that she is about to be a grandmother.

“There are those who think as a woman who is about to be a first time grandmother, she could not possibly leave her grandchild in favor of the White House—something that nobody ever talks about,” said Eveloff. “I mean, I don’t know how many grandchildren George Bush had when he ran, or how many more he had while he was in office. I guess in the beginning he had none and in the end he had at least one, but nobody talked about it.”

Similarly, nobody talks about Obama’s two young daughters as a distraction for him, said Jalalzai, adding that mentions of personal life and age are much more likely to happen with female candidates than male candidates.

Making Representative Strides in Missouri and the Country

With nearly 100 women currently in the U.S. Congress, American women now have greater representation in the national legislative body than ever before, but the numbers still fail to reflect the country’s population.  

“Nationally, we have been seeing women making very incremental gains, for the most part. They have held record-breaking numbers in the Senate. But 20 out of 100 seats is still historically good, but is it parity? And shouldn’t we be along a bit faster as far as growing those numbers?” asked Jalalzai.

When you look at the fact that 3 out of the 7 Missouri Supreme Court Justices are women, the state has something to be proud of, said Eveloff. However, Missouri has failed to increase the number of women elected to state legislature. And none of the six state constitutional offices are currently held by women. According to Eveloff, women tend to be more often elevated to high positions in merit based situations than in situations where their selection is based on public election.

What is Holding Women Back?

During the course of the show, host Don Marsh asked Jalalzai why women in the United States aren’t more represented in politics, and whether men were partially to blame.

“That’s a huge question, and if I were to answer it properly I would take up the rest of your show,” said Jalalzai. “What’s happening is in part, yes, they are sometimes being strong-armed. Sometimes they are just being excluded. Sometimes they’re just not being recruited. We know that even with their higher levels of education, we’re still tracking men and women into different fields. And so a lot of it is still socialization. And we know that there is still a continued lack of efficacy in a way that they don’t think that they are qualified to hold public office, or to run.”

And women also tend to take a less aggressive path to public office, said Eveloff.

“Women tend to see being in office as a baseball game. You have to get to first base, which may be the school board or some other local office. And then maybe you move to another slightly larger, maybe the state legislature …but it is very much the baseball metaphor, where you have to touch all the bases. For men it’s football. It’s grab the ball and run with it, and not make any stops along the way if you can avoid it,” she said.

In her work at the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life, however, Eveloff has seen some positive changes.

“I’m seeing the young women we work with are less likely to wait to be asked, but that is historically women’s biggest barrier, which is self-imposed,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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