Hillary Clinton’s campaign shows women they deserve the spotlight

US presidential candidate is challenging the pervasive myth that women who desire the same power as men are subversive and dangerous.

Hillary ClintonAn inspiration … Hillary Clinton has garnered respect with her seemingly impenetrable skin. Photograph: Bao Dandan/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Let me start by saying that this is not an objective article on the merits and weaknesses of Hilary Clinton’s policies, campaign or politics. To be frank, it is not an objective article at all. This is a description of what it is like, as a woman, to watch Hilary ascend the ranks of government. Because, as women, we are all watching.

No matter what your political views are, it cannot be denied that Hilary Clinton has made the upcoming US presidential election an emotional one for women around the world. She’s someone who, at the very least, understands what it is to have a female body in today’s world.

Clinton has been inspiring me for years. Even when I’ve disagreed with her, I’ve respected her. She seemed to have an impenetrable skin, and as a sensitive child, I envied that. The vitriol that has been lobbed at Clinton over the years would have laid a lesser person flat. The fact that she not only withstood it but rose above showed me that being a woman didn’t mean you had to hide in the background.

She also introduced me to the casual sexism that pervades our society. Every step of the way her intentions have been questioned, but why? Why are we so confused by a woman seeking power? We would never wonder why a man would want to be president. A man craving power is within the natural order of things. It is to be expected. A woman desiring power is considered subversive and dangerous.

Of course Clinton is hungry for power. I would even bet that she is selfish, cunning and would sell her soul to get what she wants. But so would every other successful politician. And most unsuccessful politicians, for that matter.

Clinton showed me that to be a woman in the public eye means inspiring, at best, equal parts hatred and affection. Her introduction to that role was far from a best-case scenario: a supporting character in a story that confronted America’s issues with sex, marriage and, most importantly, dry cleaning.

Hilary’s past as a late-night TV monologue joke will certainly come up (pardon the pun) for Fox News anchors, late night hosts and think pieces alike. Yet she has moved past it. Clinton has fought long and hard for a legacy that is more than her marriage. She worked tirelessly under a president that defeated her in the primaries, she’s visited more countries than any secretary of state in US history, and she is the first viable female presidential candidate. Sometimes we can become so obsessed with image and commentary that we forget that actions still speak louder than words, and Hilary has been speaking loud and clear for the past decade.

For me, growing up in the shadow of a rising Hillary Clinton was inspiring but for young girls today the emotional impact of growing up with a female president is beyond measure. It will shape and build their world view to be more open and hopeful than even mine is, and I still believe the remake of Jurassic Park might be really good. The idea that in 2016, a 10-year-old child could live their entire life without knowing a white, male president is beautiful. Especially since race relations in America often feel like they’re deteriorating at a rapidly increasing rate and white conservatives are all too eager to dismiss racism out of hand since Barack Obama took office.

Unless one of the parties has a surprise candidate up their pinstriped sleeves, or Janelle Monáe answers my longstanding plea to run for president, the next president of the US will not be African-American. There’s a good chance they won’t be a person of colour at all.

Transitioning out of our first black president’s White House residency will have an impact, and that impact can either be cushioned or intensified by whoever comes next. So it feels especially important to replace him with someone who will continue to challenge the status quo, who will break a glass ceiling and who will provide inspiration to all the young girls out there.

– Sarah Hartshorne, The Guardian

Quotas Aren’t a Great Way To Get More Women On Boards, New Study Says

The number of women on corporate boards around the world remains regrettably small. Norway has the best record, according to a recent survey by Catalyst, with women taking up 36% of its board seats. Finland is second, with 30%, and France is third, with 29.7%. But in countries like Japan, where some women still call their husbands “master,” only 3% of board seats are occupied by women. In the U.S., women hold 19% of seats among the S&P 500 companies.

Are quotas a good way to boost those numbers? A new study commissioned by investment management firm BNY Mellon and run by Cambridge University professor Sucheta Nadkarni, finds that quotas can increase the number of women on boards but don’t ensure that women will stay. That is, turnover may prevent the total number of women on boards from substantially increasing. The study finds that the most effective way to increase their presence is one that’s much broader and tougher to achieve: building economic power for females as defined by the number of years girls go to school and the percentage of women in the workforce. There is one thing companies can do to help: Write governance codes that mention gender diversity as a goal.

“For me the striking and most encouraging finding is that empowering women and girls outside the boardroom is key to getting them into the boardroom—and staying there,” Helena Morrissey, chief executive of BNY Mellon subsidiary Newton Investment Management, told The New York Times.

The research was presented yesterday at a BNY Mellon-sponsored conference called Womenomics. It looked at data from 1,002 companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list, including businesses in 41 countries, over a time span of 2004-2013.

Aside from economic power, some other policies tend to increase the number of women on boards: Not surprisingly, long maternity leaves help a lot. The longer the leave, the higher the percentage of women who join boards and stay there. Also, more women participating in politics in a country correlates with more getting onto boards and staying.

Many Forbes readers will disagree with me, but I’ve long been in favor of quotas as a tool to right discrimination’s wrongs, at least when it comes to U.S. institutions like universities and boards. However, if quotas mean only that women join boards and then leave quickly, I need to rethink my position.

– Susan Adams

www.forbes.com