Women Leaders Look Beyond The 'Glass Ceiling'

(Jim Cole/AP Photo)

As speculation over Hillary Clinton's 2016 plans intensified this week (thanks, in part, to her recent New York magazine interview) one current and one former woman governor and the head of the Democratic group, Emily's List, deliberated on Friday about how to elect the first woman president in 2016.

But the discussion, which took place in a critical presidential primary state, focused less on Clinton and more on the organization's broader goal of recruiting women (not just the ones named, Hillary) to run for public office.

Friday's discussion in New Hampshire was a contrast to the group's first town hall a month ago in Iowa, where Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she dreamed of "that moment in 2017 when we can say 'Madam President' to Hillary Rodham Clinton."

One of the panelists, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, noted the Granite State was the first to have a female majority state legislature, the first where a woman (Hillary Clinton) won a presidential primary, and, most recently, the first state to have a woman in the governor's office and two female U.S. senators.

"I get asked all the time what's in the water in New Hampshire that gets you to elect all these women," said Hassan. "What's in the water is opportunity."

Notably missing from the event was Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who was scheduled to appear but had to remain in D.C. to vote on the resolution to keep the government funded - as noted by another panelist, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

"You just had a governor [Hassan] who was able to get unanimous support for her budget," Granholm joked. "Maybe with a bit of estrogen in the mix you won't see the kind of gridlock you're seeing in Washington right now."

Clinton wasn't completely absent from the conversation, but Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock was quick to point out there were plenty of female fish in the sea who might be potential presidential contenders in 2016.

"If Secretary Clinton does not decide to take this on and we recover from our heartbreak, the good news is we have a great pool of women who have worked for decades to be in a position who are as accomplished," Schriock said, name checking Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Janet Napolitano, who recently left her post as secretary of Homeland Security to become president of the University of California.

Schriock said the influx of female talent in government was on display in the U.S. Senate.

"There was no bathroom in the U.S. Senate for women in 1986," she said. "We had MTV, but we didn't have a bathroom for women. The good news is there was [recently] a traffic jam for the woman's bathroom in the U.S. Senate, so they're expanding the bathroom. But that took 28 years."

At Friday's event, Granholm and Schriock encouraged women "raise their hand" to run for office rather than wait for someone to ask them.

"You cannot be what you cannot see," Granholm said. "[There] should be no story that a woman is running for president. Breaking the glass ceiling should be someone punching a hole in your sunroof."