Opinion

The Great Debate

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton may be a cure for political apathy

Former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Citizens awards ceremony for the 2014 CGI in New York

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton may be a cure for political apathy

America is often described as an increasingly divided nation, and when it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton, that couldn’t be truer. A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found her negative rating to be just two points less than her positive rating, at 41 and 43 percent respectively.

The point, though, is that people care about Clinton — and that’s usually the case whenever there’s a woman on the ballot, according to a new study.

Researchers at Arizona State University reported a demonstrable link between women senators and women’s political engagement. When women voters are represented by senators of their gender, they are more likely to vote, donate to a candidate, belong to a political organization, or get other people “to vote for a particular candidate.”

This is all good news as, if you take voter turnout as a measure, Americans are awfully apathetic about politics. The US ranks 120th out of 169 countries when it comes to voter turnout. Just 54% of eligible voters showed up at the polls on election day in 2012, and in the 2010 midterm elections, turnout was a dismal 37%.

The apathy problem is exacerbated by the fact that women, who represent half of the population, are less informed about and invested in politics than men. “Even at the start of the 21st century,” write Kim Fridkin and Patrick Kenney, the authors of the report, “women know far less about their senators than men.” Other studies show that women tend to be less informed about national and international politics than men are.

How technology widens the gender gap

The Internet and mobile phones have transformed our connections to people around the world. This technology has also, however, led to a widening gender gap in poorer countries. For it is largely men who control the information revolution that helps to educate, inform and empower.

In low and middle-income countries, a woman is 21 percent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone, according to research done by GSMA. In Africa, women are 23 percent less likely than a man to own a cell phone. In the Middle East the figure is 24 percent and in South Asia, 37 percent,

The factors driving women’s lack of connectivity vary from community to community. But the end result is always the same: disempowerment.

What women want is political key

No matter how artificial and canned the candidates can seem at a presidential debate, no matter how competent or ineffectual the moderator — the nominee’s true self will peak out at some point.

Thus did GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney tip his hand when it comes to the all-important female vote — which both he and President Barack Obama have been scrambling after. He didn’t make a huge gaffe or get ensnared in a tough debate about choice. Moving around the stage, he seemed a 1950s throwback who had wandered in from a different decade — one where men were men, women wore shirtwaist dresses (Ann Romney’s uniform) and marriage was between a man and a woman.

Of course what drove this home was Romney’s anecdote about trying to find talented women for his staff when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. He said he actually went to a number of women’s groups “and they brought us whole binders full of women.” Though he apparently flipped this story: The groups came to him unsolicited.

Is the world any closer to closing the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is out with its 6th annual Global Gender Gap report. The report measures how equitably countries are distributing their resources between women and men — regardless of their level of resources.

“By and large, the trends are positive,” one of the authors of the report Saadia Zahidi, who is the senior director at WEF, told correspondent Reuters Michelle Nichols. “85% of the 135 countries listed have made progress.”

Over the last six years, the gaps in health and education between men and women have been closed by 96% and 93%, respectively. However, the gaps in economic participation and political empowerment are much greater — 59% and 18%, respectively, over the last six years.

The gender gap in personal finance

womenmoneyIt’s not surprising that men and women handle their personal finances differently. Yet, data collected by the employee benefits company Financial Finesse shows that men trump women when it comes to managing their wallets.

Out of the 3,500 U.S. workers polled, 90 percent of men said they pay their bills on time each month compared to only 74 percent of women. Also, 71 percent of men said they have a handle on their cash flow so they spend less than they earn each month, while only 53 percent of women could claim the same.

Manisha Thakor, a Houston-based finance expert for women, explains that women tend to be less educated in personal finance.

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