What Does Clinton’s Historic Nomination Mean For The Next Generation?

Jul 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton is now the first female presidential nominee of a major American political party. Here's a look at how her historic run could impact Florida’s next generation.

Credit jvoves/ flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/

Say what you want about Hillary Clinton’s politics, her rise as the first female presidential nominee is historic. And for women of a certain age, the prospect of a Madam President is a big deal. Take 102 year old Arizona delegate Jerry Emmett, who was born before women were allowed to vote. CNN caught her nomination during the role call of states at the Democratic National Convention.

“And 51 votes for the next president of the United States of America…Hillary Rodham Clinton!” she said.

For younger generations, the achievement doesn’t necessarily carry the same weight. For many millennials, it’s not a question of if a woman could be president, it’s only a matter of when. Nonetheless, University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus says the next generation is taking notes.

“But has it been a spark to young women thinking about a political career, whether it’s Democrat or Republican? You bet,” she said.

The idea that a girl can be president, that a boy can have a female role model, is powerful, even for those who aren’t aspiring politicians. WFSU spoke with Paige Carey, Nellie Cripe, Emma Bryson, Emma Rogers and Marissa Ponder, all between 11 and 13 years old, and all aspiring scientists.

“It makes me feel like I can do anything as a career and not just be narrowed down to these few careers that are supposedly what women are supposed to do,” said  Carey.

Credit Thomas Hawk via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

“I think it’s pretty cool but at the same time women shouldn’t be forced into the position of voting for her just because she is a woman,” said Ponder.

“It gives you kind of a rush of adrenaline, just like this feeling in your chest that you know that you can do anything now, and no one can tell you no! For once!” said Bryson.

They’re pretty excited about a female president, but statistically, girls are less likely to pursue leadership positions. Researchers point to a “confidence gap”, saying girls tend to undersell their abilities.

“Boys will apply for positions, including positions of leadership, certain job postings, even if they are only half or more qualified. Whereas women tend to apply for positions only if they see themselves as 100% qualified,” she said.

That’s Florida State University education policy professor Lara Perez-Felkner. She studies the social factors behind underrepresentation, and why minorities make the career and educational choices they do. 

“At the aggregate level, there are going to be exceptions, but on the whole women tend to be more reluctant to go for positions of power, positions in leadership, as well as positions where they are underrepresented,” she said.

And the research shows that representation, simply seeing someone like you in positions of power, is very important.

“People can dream in more realistic, vivid color. And even if there are things that set them back along the way, there’s still a bit more realism attached to the possibility,” Perez-Felkner said.

Political scientist Susan MacManus is studying just how many women are jumping into Florida politics, and she says a female presidential candidate makes a difference.

“We’ve already seen a rise in the candidacies of women, whether it’s for state legislative or congressional posts, or for local posts,” she said. “A woman candidate at that level obviously affects the decisions of others to run. And we’re certainly seeing that in Florida.”

Equal representation is about so much more than gender, and the prospect of a female president won’t fix inequality overnight, but it builds a pathway for generations to come.