Make no mistake about it. There is equal representation of females and males… at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Even the winning trophy was split between the male and female winner.
“I think girls are just as good as guys at this kind of stuff,” said competitor Cady Baltz from Tennessee. She made it to the third round, spelling “retrospective’ correctly. But looking back, in history that is, here’s her observation: “All of the presidents have been guys. I think it would be nice to have a girl. It’ll be inspirational for all of us.”
Eighteen months ahead of the 2016 presidential election history has already been made, with two female presidential candidates from both major parties: Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Carly Fiorina.
Of course, that milestone comes with the potential for another: the first female president of the United States.
It’s a positive step forward without a doubt, but decades behind many other countries — even some that aren’t widely perceived to be leaders in gender equality. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany and Brazil, among others, have had or have female heads of state. (Canada had Kim Campbell appointed as prime minister in 1993, but has yet to elect a female prime minister.)
“Women are half the population of this country after all, just like the world. We have not been making the progress collectively that we should in this space or could in this space, and I think there are tremendous contributions that women can make,” said Melanne Verveer, Executive Director with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
She said tapping the talents of all citizens is certainly overdue in the U.S., but that shouldn’t take away from the significance of this step.
“We should celebrate the fact that women are aspiring for this position that there are two announced female candidates and it’s going to make for a healthier debate.”
Gender is expected to play a larger role in this presidential race than any other, particularly when it comes to attracting female voters, and it’s also likely to steer the national conversation toward women’s issues.
“We know that voters are motivated by partisanship,” said Kelly Dittmar, of the Center for American Women and Politics.
But Dittmar emphasizes that women will not simply be voting for a woman because of her gender.
Research by the Center for American Women and Politics shows the primary issues women care about are the same as men: the economy and jobs.
Despite that, it’s likely male candidates will put a great deal of emphasis on attracting female voters.
Republicans believe that a female GOP candidate will also be crucial to helping the party tackle the Democratic frontrunner.
“You know Carly will have a unique perspective, going against Hillary that the male candidates will not have,” said Kim Reem, president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women.
“I think the minute that the male candidates take on Hillary, you know they will be either sexist or a bully. I think a woman can say things towards a woman and it will be perceived in an entirely different way.”
Having the women face off against each other is a possible downside of this positive political step.
“I think there is a tendency, not a good one, in my view, that when you do have two women candidates, as you do have in two different political parties today, there is a tendency to put one against the other,” said Verveer.
Ultimately it will be policies, track record and relationship with voters that will determine the success of either Clinton or Fiorina.
“It’s in the candidates hands,” said Reem. “If we end up just talking about the fact that they’re a woman, I think it will be their fault.”
Back at the spelling bee, 17-year-old Kate Miller, who came to cheer on her friends, couldn’t agree more. “That is thrilling. We’ve never had a woman for president, but it’d be nice to see her supported for her policies not her gender.”
So they’ll all continue to watch and see if, in 2016, president is spelled “W-O-M-A-N.”