Nancy Pelosi: Two Heartbeats From the Presidency

Generally, American women also have more difficulty raising money for presidential campaigns than men. (Although Hillary Clinton could boast a campaign war chest that would be the envy of her rivals if she decides to run.) On the other hand, in Europe, women have had larger political success because elections are more of a meritocracy, according to the National Association for Women (NOW).

Women have made modest gains in gubernatorial races, which are seen as a stepping stone to the presidency, and now hold office in nine states.

"Considering women are still such a small proportion of the governors and members of Congress, there is a relatively small pipe line to presidency," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Women also have fewer economic resources than men. Follow the money."

In 1977, women made 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. Today, that has jumped to 77 cents, but "it's been 30 years and we still haven't made up the 23 cents," said Gandy.

Pelosi Paves the Way?

Why do women run for political office? Usually they are passionate about community issues. Studies have shown that women in politics are more often teachers, health professionals and social workers. Men, on the other hand, are often lawyers and businessmen who see political office as furthering their career.

According to a 2001 CAWP study, women are also more likely to effect change for families and children, protect the interests of other women and champion the poor and ethnic minorities.

The study also showed female state legislators were more likely than men to favor harsher penalties for hate crimes, civil unions for gays and to oppose laws that would require permission for minors to obtain abortions.

What would a female presidency look like? Liberal and conservative women alike bring their own life experience to public office, say both Walsh and Gandy.

"How many men ever lost a night's sleep because he had a sick child and would a lose a day's pay or get fired if he didn't go to work?" asked Gandy.

Political powerhouse Nancy Pelosi's ascension as speaker of the House could bode well for future female presidential candidates.

"The aspirations and expectations of our daughters and sons are molded by what they see around them," said Gandy the day before Congress reconvened as she raced to join Pelosi for tea in celebration of her new role. "Nancy has a lot on her shoulders, but the rest of us are making sure that our daughters see her being sworn in."

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