When Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, she didn't just fail to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling in American politics. She lost to a man who accused her of cynically exploiting her gender for political gain, and who faced allegations of sexual assault. The legacy of her presidential run will undoubtedly be complex. Clinton may serve as a political role model for some young women, while others may feel alienated by her brand of liberal feminism. The contentious nature of the race and Clinton’s high-profile defeat could even discourage other women from running for elected office in their own right.
Research from Jennifer Lawless of American University and Richard Fox of Loyola Marymount University suggests that one reason why women are less likely than men to show interest in running for elected office is a tendency among women to doubt their qualifications. Watching Clinton lose to Trump, despite her extensive political experience, could reinforce those doubts.
“I think the defeat has the potential to set back female candidates’ emergence,” said Jennifer Lawless, the director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute. "Women are less likely to think they have thick enough skin to endure the rigors of the campaign trail, and to contend that voters will vote for them, donors will give to them, and the media will cover them fairly,” she said, adding that those doubts could be “reinforced by what they just saw in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and defeat.”