A woman could soon become the president of the United States. It’s been a long time coming: 240 years since the country’s founding; 90 years since suffrage; 51 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed. America was roundly beaten to this landmark—more than five dozen countries around the world have had a female head within the last 50 years.
Even if Hillary Clinton were to lose, the moment would be historic and moving—and a little bit depressing. Her candidacy marks a new era, full of potential, but also full of reminders that women’s leadership is still limited by many factors, including discrimination, economic inequality, and cultural stereotypes.
In the United States, women make up one-quarter of state legislators, one-fifth of Congress, and one-eighth of governors. They account for three out of nine Supreme Court justices—only four have ever served in the institution’s history—and roughly one-third of trial-court and federal court-of-appeal judges. Globally, only 21 women were serving as heads of state or government as of August 2015, and women were roughly one-fifth of the world’s legislators and members of parliament.
In the workplace, women only make up about 40 percent of the managerial class; in 2013, their median annual earnings were roughly $10,000 less than men’s. While women’s wages have increased over time, they’ve gone up significantly more for women who are earning the most money, rather than those who are earning the least. Women still do more childcare and housework than men, although men are assuming a greater share of those responsibilities. And those women who do caregiving work—whether it’s supporting families, tending the health of the elderly, or otherwise—often live without financial security or cultural recognition.