Hillary Clinton’s Campaign and the Issue of Gender

Today on Big Think, I posted a blog entitled “Hillary Clinton and the ‘Women’s Point of View’ Conundrum.”  As Clinton launches her campaign for the U.S. presidency, she faces a number of challenges related to being a woman.  One of those challenges has a lot to do with how human beings think, particularly about women.  While men are rarely expected to speak for most or all men, women who reach high-level, visible positions in male dominated fields are often expected to represent the “women’s point of view” on issues for which even believing there could be one is ludicrous.  Clinton will confront this issue.  The press will remind us constantly of her gender, even when it is irrelevant to the issue at hand.  Highly effective and successful women I’ve known and interviewed have learned how to feel confident about being women, while also helping people get to know them as individuals.

This is one of the major challenges facing Clinton.  She’ll need to assist those who usually think in terms of categories (that’s most us) to get beyond that tendency– to come to know her as a woman and also as an extraordinarily capable and experienced leader.  While many women don’t think they should have to do this work, that people should not notice their gender first, knowing it’s a human tendency to rely on categories makes the task easier to accept.  To the extent that Clinton and her campaign clearly define for people when gender is relevant and when it is not, without defensiveness, her chances of becoming the first female President of the United States will be greatly enhanced.

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