Can Hillary Deliver Hope For American Women?

05/08/2016 16:06 | Updated 05 August 2016

'Remember hope?' Jim Geraghty of National Review probed in an article this week. After nearly eight years of the first African-American president the country's race relations have seldom been so bad. Economic inequality is rife and as Black Lives Matter drags on each day brings "fresh news of unrest to feed a ceaseless cycle of outrage and recrimination". For many African Americans, hope has become a distant dream.

When Barack Obama became the first black President of the US in January 2009 there was a palpable feeling that the country had washed its hands of its torrid past and was ready to move into a future free from bitter race relations. The New York Times called the inauguration "a civil rights victory party on the Mall," and "a watershed event in the nation's racial history - the culmination of the long struggle for civil rights."

But for many, the promise of eight years ago has failed to deliver. A recent poll found 69 per cent of Americans described race relations as bad - three times the figure in 2009 - and 50 per cent of American Adults think race relations in the country are getting worse.

So has Obama has turned back the clock on race relations? Gil Troy of McGill University certainly thinks so. "Since at least the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt managing racial tensions has been an important yardstick of presidential success", but "beyond being America's first black president.... What has Obama done to reconcile blacks and whites?"

Hope 'Back on the Agenda'

As his Presidential tenure draws to a close 'hope' is on the agenda again, but this time for American women. Hilary Clinton looks set to become the first female American President according to the latest polling and, like with her predecessor, she will carry a weight of expectation on her shoulders. The US rates 28th out of 145 countries for equality for women with the gap closing by only 4 per cent in the past ten years. At that rate, it would take 118 years to reach parity.

Here's the rub. Patience has proved to be a less than virtuous characteristic when it comes to the big issues in America, and many women will see Clinton's probable ascension to Presidency as a catalyst for change. Tammy Keith, a caseworker who lives in Brooklyn, New York, estimates she has been paid $20,000 less than her male counterparts over the past 14 years. But that will all change now. Speaking to the New York Times she says "women will get fair wages" under Clinton, change is nigh.

Obstacles To Gender Equality

But "cracking an opening in a glass ceiling is not the same as dismantling it", Marianne Cooper, a Stanford sociologist who was the lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In", said. Quoted in the same publication, she said: "To really shatter the glass ceiling would mean she was upending the forces that are barriers for women. Those are really difficult for any single individual from an underrepresented group to undo. And in four years?"

Like race relations, there is no quick fix for gender equality. We have to address equal pay, gender equality in decision-making powers, sexual violence, women in politics, education and whether family is still an obstacle for women. As Ariel Smilowitz wrote in this publication, "gender equality is an intricate mosaic, a picture that cannot be complete without understanding and exploring the dynamic regional, national and demographic factors at play".

But here's something to be really encouraged about. By November there will be three women in charge of G8 economies, which is a huge stride to take in tackling one of the biggest barriers to gender equality; our attitude towards it. A history-making president may not be enough to tackle the problem, but it is a significant step in the right direction.