BOSTON (CBS) – First it was Danielle Allen, a Harvard University professor who once won a MacArthur genius grant.
Now, respected State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) makes it two women running for governor, with Attorney General Maura Healey warming up in the background.READ MORE: Large Search Underway Near Newburyport Boat Club For Missing Man Kevin Mahoney
And with four of the six Boston mayoral candidates being female officeholders, it seems that the era of gender equality in local politics has finally arrived.
Right? Not quite.
“Voters don’t assume women are qualified,” said Amanda Hunter, reporting on the results of a new study of voter attitudes toward female candidates by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation. “Men can just release their resumes and voters take it for granted.”
That’s just one conclusion of the study, which finds the double-standard that helped sink Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2016 is still very much in play.
Female candidates “still have to maintain a level of femininity so that they can be likable. If they come off as too tough, they’ll alienate voters,” Hunter said.READ MORE: Keller @ Large: Massachusetts Still 'Very Much Right In The Thick' Of COVID Pandemic
So political newcomer Allen, the study suggests, will have to prove her competence in a way that another novice named Deval Patrick did not when he ran.
And even a veteran legislator like Chang-Diaz must do the same. Said Hunter: “Voters aren’t going to assume that she did a good job. She’s going to have to show, not tell, her accomplishments.”
And Hunter said the women running for mayor must avoid getting too rough with each other as the race heats up because the research shows women pay a higher price than men for going negative. “If she’s essentially going to be CEO of Boston or CEO of Massachusetts, voters need to be that much more convinced that she’s up to the job.” Why? “Because a lot of voters still have a stubborn imagination barrier, as we call it, when it comes to seeing women in executive office.”
The study also found that while voters value likability, they’re more willing to vote for a man they don’t especially like than for a woman. Back in 2016, the final Gallup poll showed Clinton and Donald Trump were the two least-liked nominees of all time. But his unfavorable rating was nine points higher than hers.
We know how that one came out.MORE NEWS: Where Did Summer Go? Looking Back On A July That Featured Record-Breaking Rain And Cold
Whether you want to call this a double standard or just outright sexism, consider one other finding from the Lee Foundation study – a majority said gender in a governor didn’t matter to them, but a large majority said they thought it might matter to friends or neighbors.