Election day in the United States is a time when we exercise a right not guaranteed in all nations. But in countries around the world where elections are held regularly, more women are being elected President or Prime Minister than ever before.
So, why has the U.S. never had a female president?
They’ve come close. And more women have been elected to Congress and state offices since the turn of this century than ever before. But still never the presidency of the United States
Farida Jalalzai is a political scientist at Virginia Tech who studies the role of gender in the political arena. “The presidency is a really important platform, and who is in that position, sends important signals about… our values.”
She points out that 80 other countries have, or have had, female Presidents or Prime Ministers.
“And if countries worldwide, time and time again are able to somehow manage to have women not just in symbolic positions of power, but in substantive positions, and the United States is glaringly absent from that list, it sends a message about how open the United States really is, to change.”
And it’s not for lack of trying.
Looking back at the last Presidential election, it seemed to Jalalzai that Hilary Clinton had the edge. “She was able to amass enough public support at least to win the popular vote, but based on the rules of the game, that wasn't enough, based on where it was that she won.”
But, she says, if a woman were to become president of the United States, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that this country is over its gender issues. She points to another ‘first’ in politics when Barak Obama became the first African American president.
“Just like when Barack Obama won the presidency, we still had race issues. But I think it does send an important signal. And the signal that we're sending across the world is that ultimately, we're not as progressive as we think that we are.”
Jalalzai says Clinton did break a long-held barrier, that led to more female presidential candidates than ever before, this time around. And that “Conversations are now being had about gender and its role in politics.”
And with more women in Congress, bridges to even higher office for women are being built.
According to Jalalzai’s research, its countries that have relative gender equality, where you find more female leaders.
And yet, “Nowhere in our history, have we been able to manage to have a woman president. That says something.”