The 2016 Presidential race should be reframing the way we think about women and power. You can love Hillary or hate her, but no woman has ever come even this close to being elected President.

Instead, the 2016 Presidential race is taking all the dysfunctional hateful stereotypes about women and displaying the power these stereotypes still wield. And I'm not even talking about Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. I'm talking about the Democrats, and about Silicon Valley.

What's the dominant criticism of Hillary? That Hillary is shrill. That she is not likeable enough. No matter how much Hillary talks about her grandchild, it doesn't seem to help much.

Meanwhile, she is campaigning against a man, who, as my colleague Jon Fine says, speaks only in capital letters. If any of the candidates deserves to be tagged as shrill, it's got to be Bernie. Instead, he gets to be the revolutionary. He's the lovable old lefty whacko. He's living proof that shrillness in a man can somehow, to some people, be endearing. Instead, our misgivings about Bernie have more to do with how competent he is when it comes to foreign policy, an area where Hillary, a former Secretary of State, clearly has much more experience.

Tellingly, the way voters are rating the two Democratic candidates maps exactly to how managers in the tech industry (and I would love to think tech is an outlier here) rate their employees.

In an analysis of performance reviews conducted by Text.io co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder, women who were criticized by their bosses were told their problem was, essentially, their personality. (Hillary: shrill). When men were criticized, it was because they were lacking expertise in certain subject matter (Bernie: foreign policy). As I wrote when the study first came out:

It's not a close call. In the 83 critical reviews received by men, just two included comments on personality. In the 94 critical reviews received by women, 71 included negative comments about personality.... Is it even remotely possible that only 2.4 percent of the men have personality flaws that affect their work, but 76 percent of the women do?

I know there is no point exhorting anyone to vote on the issues and not on personalities, because even I understand that that isn't how politics work. But I would love to see some of our female leadership be a little more pointed about exactly what is going on here, rather than chiding Millennial women for supporting Sanders.

As it is, we've got Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright telling young women to vote for Clinton because she's a woman. What we need to hear is why those two women are passionate about supporting Clinton, apart from her gender. And that the sexist dialogue around the election is making it very hard for women, or anyone else, from fully and fairly evaluating the candidates.

 

Published on: Feb 9, 2016