Woman presidency would be ‘historic’

Women’s studies department shares importance of a female leader

A nearly forgotten issue in the general election is the significance of having the first female president. Whether Hillary Clinton is elected or not, she is the first woman to receive either major party’s nomination for president.

Professors and students in Wichita State’s women’s studies department shared their insight about what this would mean for women and the country.

“What did it mean for women to get the right to vote in 1920?” said Chinyere Okafor, chair of the women’s studies and religion department. “It took a century of lobbying, fighting, and going to prison. It means a lifetime of achievement. Many women would wish they were alive to see this.”

Okafor also expressed the importance of the issue in the election.

“It hasn’t been an election issue,” Okafor said. “It is an issue that a woman hasn’t been in the White House. This is how far America has come. She will represent all of us, not just women.

“It will mean something special for not just me, but for the people I represent. My daughter will walk taller when she sees a woman president.”

Okafor also stressed the importance of the election to women worldwide.

“In other countries, people want to see a female American president,” Okafor said. “Countries in Africa that are supposed to look up to America. When you count countries that have had women presidents, the greatest country in the world should have one.”

Doris Chang, associate professor of women’s studies, described Clinton’s candidacy in relation to women in national leadership around the world.

“It’s historic,” Chang said. “Since the 1990s, more countries have had female heads of state, like Theresa May in England and Angela Merkel in Germany.

“Though women are still in the minority of political leadership worldwide, and the number of women who have been democratically elected as heads of state have incrementally increased in recent years.

“If Hillary Clinton were elected president, she will be the head of state of the world’s leading power. Over the years, she’s well respected by most political leaders in the international community.”

Chang also said she thought a female president might bring women’s issues to prominence.

“In some instances, women leaders have brought a woman’s perspective,” Chang said. “In instances of child care and maternity leave, affordable child care is important for women and they help with these issues.”

Cheng said women have 12 weeks of maternity leave without pay in the United States. In some nations, women have nine months of maternity leave with pay mandated by law.

Chang also stressed that she believes the interests of men and women are similar.

“Men and women are more alike than different,” Chang said. “So far (Clinton) has indicated that she will be a voice for that.”

Students in the department also weighed in.

“When we look at other countries and young girls don’t receive an education, it will encourage younger women to empower themselves and think they can overcome,” Stephanie Merrit, a senior majoring  in women’s studies and ethnic studies, said.

She also said women should be allowed to become what they want to be.

“I think we’re seeing women in higher paying jobs, like CEO,” Merrit said. “I hope this shows women they can do what they want to do, whether it’s a stay-at-home housewife or a CEO.

“I don’t want to see them think they have to conform to society. What is important from a woman’s perspective is that someone fought for our right to vote.”