Odds Still Stacked Against a Woman President

Columnists say female politicians -- like all working women -- still have the cards stacked against them

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At the end of her bid for the presidency, Hillary Clinton addressed her supporters. "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before," she said. A year after Clinton staged a major campaign for the White House, many commentators say the first female president is still a long way away.

The men of MSNBC's First Read suggest that part of the problem is the scarcity of female governors. "One of the main reasons why we've had so few female presidential possibilities is because not enough women have become governors, which still remains the best stepping stone to the presidency." (Read the Atlantic Wire's coverage of women as the next great hope of the GOP here.) Other commentators offer a different theory. They argue that women continue to face enormous challenges in balancing work and family life, and in winning equal pay.

  • Little Support for Working Women Kelly Paice of First Read takes a look at a new report from the Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver and finds that "America has not come to terms with the evolving role of the work-life balancing woman."

Our leading institutions -- government, businesses, faith, and media -- have not kept up with the modern American family. For example, both our basic labor standards and our social insurance system are based on supporting 'traditional' families, where the husband works and the wife stays home to care for children.

  • Women Still Earn 77 Cents on the Dollar On National Public Radio, Time Magazine editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs said women continue to fight for equal pay.

There certainly was a time when it was perfectly common for employers to flatly, you know, admit to women that they were paying them less because they - the assumption that a woman who was working was just, you know, sort of earning pocket money. And now you have 40 percent of women as primary breadwinners in their homes, and particularly in the past year in this recession, more and more households are more and more dependent on the income that woman are bringing in. And so for women to be underpaid for, you know, whatever their labor is, is not something just that punishes them. It punishes the entire family.

  • Women Have Too Many Responsibilities On ABC News, Gail Collins said Clinton's loss may have been "disappointing for a lot of people," but that the real "gender gap" is about "things like the social safety net." Collins says women are the ones doing the breadwinning and taking care of the home. "Women are just way more concerned about making sure people are taken care of than guys are, and that seems to me at least to be the basis of it."

  • Government Should Help At DoubleX, The Washington Post's women's blog, Sharon Lerner says American women are set up to fail, with little support from the government or their employers.
American women have achieved the very highest rate of full-time employment in the world, with 75 percent of employed women working full-time. This combination would seem to be untenable without support from government and employers, but American women get very little of that. The United States is a glaring exception in the developed world and beyond in having no mandatory paid maternity leave, no nationwide childcare system, few flexible work options, and, as we've heard lately, no universal health coverage.
  • Men Should Step Up What's the solution? On Meet The Press, California's First Lady Maria Shriver says men should help women meet the changing needs of the American family. "I think we're actually in a moment when men and women can come together and say 'these aren't women's issues anymore, these are family issues, and it's smart on all of these institutions to adapt.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.