Monday, November 12, 2007

Many Women Executives Lukewarm on Hillary Clinton

This morning's Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on Hillary Clinton's support among women professionals:

When Valerie Frederickson, a Silicon Valley human-resources consultant, heard Hillary Clinton assert that she could "take the heat" after getting pummeled by opponents in a recent debate, she recalled the times in her own career when a roomful of men disrespected her.

Once, at a national sales meeting for a large construction-products company, a male colleague passed around photographs of her in a bikini that he'd secretly taken on a prior business trip. "Instead of quitting, I focused on being better, on outselling the guys three-to-one," says Ms. Frederickson, who later founded her own firm, Valerie Frederickson & Co.

Ms. Frederickson has donated money to John Edwards's campaign, because she thinks he has a better chance of winning, but she'll vote for Mrs. Clinton if she's the Democratic candidate. She identifies with Mrs. Clinton's determination "to pick herself up when she's shot down and figure out how to be effective." And, she notes, "As professional women we've been through so much -- I feel like she's my big sister."

A year away from the election, Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has a lead with women voters over male candidates of both parties. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that when matched against Republican Rudolph Giuliani, she wins by 53% to 38% among female voters (and loses among men by 52% to 38%.) Against Democrat Sen. Barack Obama, she wins among women by 53% to 21%, while winning among men by just 37% to 31%.

Not all women are certain that Mrs. Clinton is going to be the one to shatter what's been called "the last glass ceiling." Executive and professional women with incomes over $75,000 -- who might be perceived as having most in common with her -- support Mrs. Clinton in much lower numbers than do lower-income women, and they are slightly more likely to vote for Mr. Giuliani than for her: 46% to 45%.

But regardless of their political views and preferences, Mrs. Clinton's campaign is stirring strong feelings among female executives about what it means to be a woman -- often the only woman -- seeking a position of power. Whether she is battling male opponents in debates, having her hair and clothing scrutinized or trying to convince voters she is strong enough to do tough tasks, the senator is publicly facing challenges that most female executives have grappled with privately throughout their careers. Her determination to win the White House is also prompting many women in business to reflect on their career goals and what price they're willing to pay to achieve them.
Read the whole thing. The article notes that many women agree that when Clinton plays the gender card it reflects poorly on the status of women as equals in the economy and politics.

I'm particularly intrigued by the finding, as indicated by the polling data above, that as women executives get closer to bumping into the glass ceiling, they're less likely to support Clinton than are women at lower levels of workplace advancement. Perhaps Clinton's nanny state agenda is less attractive to women who've proven themselves entreprenurial, independent, and upwardly mobile (and less likely to be receptive to Clinton's redistributive policies).