By Dragana Spasevska
This presidential race has arguably been one of the most contentious with both Trump and Hillary Clinton getting high unfavorability ratings. For those who don’t like Hillary, many will say that she is playing the “Woman Card,” that her very identity as a woman would get her into the White House due to the symbolic meaning of having the first female president. The same argument occurred during the previous presidential race where Obama was accused of playing the “Black Card.” When I think of Hillary being a woman, I don’t usually view this as a positive characteristic in terms of her winning the presidency. In fact, I would say that running for office as a woman in a traditionally male role is incredibly challenging, and there’s evidence to show that in published media and public perceptions.
For example, in the Becker’s Hospital Review a couple months ago, I read about research from the Yale School of Management published in the Harvard Business Review, stating that women in generally male-dominated occupations face much higher criticism after making mistakes than men. Researchers presented study participants with a fictitious news story about a big city preparing for a major protest rally. In the scenario when the chief police officer was female and didn’t send enough police forces—which resulted in 25 people who were seriously injured—the participants gave a 10 percent lower rating than when the same chief police officer in the same scenario was a male. Researchers repeated similar studies for other traditionally male jobs like CEO and state Supreme Court chief justice. The only scenario in which male leaders were criticized more harshly for mistakes than women was when a man filled a role typically held by women — a male president of a women's college.
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that people find it easier to forgive a poor decision when the leader who makes it is in a gender-appropriate role. Unfortunately, men have much bigger territory in this regard than women. Whether in politics, finance, law, sports or the military, men dominate. For Hillary Clinton who has had her fair share of wins and losses holding office, it’s no surprise that her mistakes like the unsecured e-mail servers and Benghazi incidents have been scrutinized and judged so severely even amidst someone like Trump who clearly has had little political experience. Without diving deeply into whether Hillary really made egregious mistakes during her experience in politics, the fact that some will still judge her more harshly against an opponent who has neither held public office nor seems to have any humane thought-out plans for the United States, shows that gender biases may be proliferating our political processes as well. Next time we judge a female leader, we must ask ourselves, would I be saying the same thing if this was a male leader?
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