With at least a half dozen women candidates now running for president, the 2020 campaign should focus more on issues than gender, which should help many of the female contenders, according to the anchor for BBC World News America.
Katty Kay, a British journalist who has covered U.S. presidential elections since the 2008 campaign, said she expects the U.S. presidential contest starting this year should be much different from the 2016 campaign when Democrat Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee of a major political party but was pretty much alone among the leading presidential candidates to succeed President Obama.
"What's really exciting about this race is the discussion in the Democratic field of candidates is not about who is the woman candidate or who is the African-American candidate because there are so many different candidates — it's about where each stands on the ideological spectrum," Kay said. "That is a different conversation that we are already having so the fact that we have so many women in this contest changes this race for those women."
Kay said the American presidential election process makes it more difficult for women to be elected to the top leadership post than in the Parliamentary system where female Prime Ministers have been chosen by their parties through their legislative experience in countries around the globe, now including Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and seven other countries.
Kay, the author of three New York Times best-selling books on women in business and leadership roles, was in Chattanooga Thursday night as the keynote speaker for the annual Impact Dinner for the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute, a nonprofit group that has worked to develop and encourage more women leaders since 1996. Kay told a sold-out audience of more than 700 women at the Chattanooga Convention Center that they need to take and encourage other women and girls to be willing to take more risks and chances in their jobs and careers and assume new roles to make sure their voice is heard.
"Women have more of a tendency than men to want to be perfect and to be people pleasers," Kay said in an interview with the Times Free Press. "If you want to be perfect and try to please everyone, the idea of taking risks and then failing becomes difficult so we tend to stick in our comfort zone. That desire to be perfect is a real problem for our girls and the fear of failure sets in for too many around the age of 9 or 10."
Kay said the confidence gap between the sexes is a one major reason why men still dominate most top management jobs and board seats even though more women are earning college degrees and doing better academically than men in most schools today. Women are usually more reluctant than their male counterparts to ask for a raise or seek a promotion.
Kay's book on "The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up and Becoming Your Amazing Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self," came out in April and has been on the New York Times best sellers list ever since.
In Chattanooga, women outnumber men at all area colleges and universities. But only 14 percent of the directors of the publicly traded companies in Chattanooga are women and only 15 percent of the members of the Tennessee Legislature are women. Chattanooga is the only major city in Tennessee that has never had a female mayor or county executive. Although Tennessee elected its first female U.S. senator in 2016 with the election of Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the Volunteer State is one of 20 states that still have never had a female governor.
Kay said studies indicate that most women who run for elected office have been asked at least three times to run before they do, whereas men are more apt to simply look in the mirror and see a winning candidate.
"When women run, they win as often as men do," she said. "Voters will vote for women; the problem is getting more women to run."
More than a dozen major global studies have found that businesses with more diverse board rooms and management suites do better in their business performance, Kay said.
"When companies begin to see data like what we are now seeing, they do respond," she said. "It's not only the right thing to do; it's the bright thing to do."
"What we are learning is that it takes time and it takes real commitment from the top of an organization," Kay said. "It takes a real rethinking of why you are doing this. Are you doing this for diversity reasons or are you doing this because it is a talent retention strategy and you want to get the best performance out of your organization."
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