Gender Bias in Political Newspaper Endorsements

BlogHer Original Post

UPDATE: One of my co-bloggers at The Moderate Voice wrote a post in reaction to my post. You can read Marc Pascal's take here, Got Me Thinking Again About How Men and Women See.

Anastasia Pantsios, a lifelong journalist, does a great job in Ohio Daily Blog's post, "A Disturbing Pattern" with the subject of how the Cleveland Plain Dealer's primary endorsements for 12 newly-created elected positions read as gender-biased reviews though the motivation seems unintentional. But just because there is no intention does not mean that there is no bias.  It should be revealed and filtered out, or otherwise acknowledged and/or controlled for.

close-up of a newspapers front page

The tally stands at:

17 primary endorsements total from the PD

11 in Democratic primaries: 10 men, 1 woman

6 in Republican primaries (no Republican primary in the other five districts): 5 men, 1 woman

For County Executive:

2 endorsements total (one per party)

4 Democratic candidates (2 men, 2 women): PD endorses Ed Fitzgerald

3 Democratic candidates (3 men): PD endorses Matt Dolan

So, if Cuyahoga County voters went with all of the PD's primary endorsed candidates, the gender composition of the brand new Cuyahoga County government, with 12 elected officials, would be either 10 men and two women (or less than 20% female composition) or 11 men and one woman - less than 10% female composition.

With less than 25% women even in these races, we've not giving ourselves very good odds.  But that does not excuse the PD from needing to unpack what's going on with their endorsements, including the difference in the decisive value between managing tempests with aplomb versus being polished.

FYI: Cuyahoga County, as of the Census data for 2009, was composed of 52.6% women - not less than 20%. The end of men certainly doesn't seem to be in sight here in NE Ohio, if these PD endorsements reign.

FYI 2: Here's more on why having more than one women in power matters so much. Finally, I cannot say it any better than Swanee Hunt and Kerry Healey earlier this year:

...we share the conviction that a “critical mass’’ of women will lead to better public policies.

What’s a critical mass? Research shows that when about 30 percent of a group is made up women, the discourse, values, and working style of the entire organization changes.

Women collectively bring a broader perspective to the political debate, based on their different social roles and life experiences. That breadth is crucial in order to solve the many challenges society faces, including the current economic crisis, national security issues, and health care reform.

While no stereotype is true for all men or all women, social science research says women tend to be more inclusive, more easily build bridges across ideological divides, and are more in touch with their local communities - all necessary traits for the kind of leadership needed in this deeply divided country.

But it will take a big effort to get women to imagine themselves in the political ring. Unfortunately, women candidates are often held to a different standard by power brokers and opinion-makers, including party leaders, donors, and the media. Sometimes other women are a female candidate’s harshest critics - so the obstacles to women participating in electoral office are not placed there by men alone. When a mother runs, voters of both genders often wonder, “Who will care for the children while she campaigns?’’ - a question for Pauline but not Paul. And typically, those controlling the party’s purse strings demand proof that the candidate has raised a substantial portion of her projected budget before even discussing how they can help her win her race.

This observation about what's happening with our brand new county government and the media's role in endorsements for 12 new elected offices is an opportunity to lead, not to be defensive.  How do we impress this upon our media (including Politico and their media bias that makes it look as if only male political bloggers run for office - 11 mentioned to 2 women in this article - so that they do something about it?

Jill Writes Like She Talks


In The Arena: Jill Miller Zimon, Pepper Pike City Council Member

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