Elizabeth Warren And The Gender Gap In Politics

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — As Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she was dropping out of the presidential race outside her Cambridge home Thursday, she was asked what her message was to the women and girls who supported her campaign, now that the choice for the Democratic nomination was between two old white men.

"I know one of the hardest parts of this is all those pinky promises, and all those little girls who are gonna have to wait four more years," Warren said. "That's going to be hard."

With Warren's exit comes the question of what role the gender gap played in her issues connecting with voters. As Susan Matthews wrote for Slate Thursday, Warren's embracing of her identity as a woman was a central feature of her campaign.

"She wasn’t just running as a teacher or a wonk," Matthews wrote. "Elizabeth Warren was running as a woman. She was unapologetic about it. It went beyond embracing her identity as a teacher, though an identity as a teacher is surely gendered itself."

For many women, the sting of defeat isn't new.

"For the second time in four years, an exceptionally qualified female candidate lost to her male counterparts—some objectively far less qualified," wrote Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou for Vox Friday. "Warren’s loss was not as sudden or shocking as Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. But what stung for many was the depth of voters’ rejection, so much so that Warren came in third in her home state of Massachusetts on Super Tuesday."

Amanda Hunter with the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that works to advance women's equality and representation in American politics, spoke with WBZ NewsRadio's Laurie Kirby about the gender gap in the political field.

"In a lot of ways, this demonstrates how voters still hold women to a higher standard," she said. "We've never had a successful woman presidential candidate, and sometimes it's difficult for voters to imagine something that they've never seen before. We know from our research that voters' unconscious bias remains a very real obstacle, especially for the presidency."

elizabeth warren

(Madison Rogers/WBZ NewsRadio)

Warren had the fundraising, and was at one point the front-runner in the race. Many of her ideas and policies are similar to those of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who now fighting for delegates in the race with former Vice President Joe Biden.

While voters may have liked Warren's ideas, they may have taken issue with her being the one to implement them, Hunter said.

"We know from our research that it's one thing for voters to support a woman to be part of a deliberative body as a decision-maker, like Congress," Hunter said. "But if she's going to be the decision-maker, and essentially CEO, voters have to be that more convinced she's up to the job."

Just because a woman didn't win at the ballot box this time, Hunter said, doesn't mean women aren't making progress.

"It's important to keep in mind that there were six women in this race," Hunter said. "Previously, there's only ever been five women in history to set foot on a presidential debate stage, and never more than one woman at the same time. So, all of the women in the race still broke a lot of barriers, even though it looks like no one's going to make it to the Oval Office this time.

Listen to the full interview with Hunter below.

WBZ NewsRadio's Laurie Kirby (@LaurieWBZ) reports

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