The Holy Grail for political women in the United States is election to executive government office. No doubt about it.
The numbers start the story. As I write in October 2018, there are just six women governors (only four of whom are elected, as opposed to appointed). There are only seven women state attorneys general, 11 women secretaries of state, and only eight women chief financial officers in the 50 states. In cities with populations greater than 30,000, barely one-fifth of the mayors are women; in the ten largest U.S. cities, only one has a woman mayor. The numbers aren’t much better on the executive appointments front.
This pitifully small number of women elected to executive office isn’t due to women’s lack of interest in running, nor any lack of commitment by other women to campaign to elect them. It is due to the continuing existence of many of the same barriers that have prevented so many women from running for any office, ever:
The power of incumbency means it’s difficult to win as a challenger. And incumbency is still predominantly male. Party nominating systems, and their (mostly male) power brokers, continue to favor male applicants. Men pick each other to make these decisions. Old boys’ political and business networks, for which there are no female equivalents in many communities, typically select their own members for positions that create the leadership platform from which to make a viable run for office. Family and work responsibilities continue to limit women’s time to seek or run for office. Add to this the reality of wage discrimination—meaning women have to work more hours to earn the same amount—which means they have less time than