Republican Governor John Kasich launched his presidential campaign this morning, joining 15 other Republicans and 5 Democrats in seeking the nation’s highest office. With announcements coming on a regular basis, it’s hard to generate interest in yet another man joining the race. In fact, the more interesting story has become the high number of candidates itself. As Larry Sabato has noted, this year’s election already has a record number of candidates for any one party (Republicans). However, there is an interesting gender story to tell as the candidate list grows. Yes, this campaign marks the first time we have women candidates running for both major party nominations. But, those women – Hillary Clinton (D) and Carly Fiorina (R) – represent just 9.5% of all major party presidential contenders. Of course, Clinton’s status as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is incredibly important. Still, I find it hard to believe that women represent less than ten percent of the talent pool in the presidential pipeline.
The mission of Presidential Gender Watch 2016 is to track, analyze, and illuminate gender dynamics in election 2016. Those gender dynamics include, but are not limited to, evidence of gender bias in perceptions, media coverage, or candidate behavior. As we explain in our FAQs, we plan to examine the presence, claims and impact of sexism, recognizing variance in how it is defined, measured, and/or applied to or by candidates, voters, or media. We will rely upon scholarship on gender bias to provide a thoughtful framework for analysis, recognizing that there are no universal rules for what is or is not sexist. As part of this task, we will post a bi-weekly On the Bias to identify potential examples of bias and place them within the context of research, precedence, and comparative treatment of male and female candidates. In this first installment, we will identify cases of potential gender bias over the past month’s presidential election coverage.
There is an often-told story among women leaders about a common experience they have had in meetings where men significantly outnumber women. Maybe you have heard it. It goes like this: the team or committee is grappling with a problem and everyone is chiming in, offering different approaches and solutions. One of the two or three women present tosses out an idea, but the conversation continues. A few minutes later, one of the men repeats her idea and the group seizes on it as the way to go.
What causes the team to hear him, but not her? Did his deeper voice command reflexive respect? Was he a larger presence, physically or emotionally, or both? Did he speak with more authority?
It’s impossible to know exactly. Yet, it seems clear that a woman with a good idea was treated as “lesser than” the guy who subsequently succeeds with her idea. It also seems to be true that the whole group, women and men alike, discount her.
At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 25, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Cecily Strong – the first woman to host the event in 20 years – created a memorable moment when she asked all members of the media in the ballroom to raise their hands and vow: “I solemnly swear not to talk about Hillary’s appearance, because that is not journalism.”