The election of Hillary Clinton this month would have made her the first female president of the United States—no doubt a huge accomplishment—but some social psychologists believe it would have taken a second female commander-in-chief for the paradigm of gender equality in the U.S. to truly shift.
More than 60 nations have had female heads of government, but only a third of them have had more than one woman leader. It’s the election of that second woman that means more, in part, because it’s harder to achieve. Perhaps, that’s why it took Argentina 33 years to elect its second female president after voting its first into office. In the U.K., the delay between Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May was only slightly shorter—a quarter century.
After electing the first woman president, there’s a tendency to retreat to old habits. “There’s research suggesting that if you see your past behavior as progress towards a goal, you won’t feel you have to put as much effort into achieving that goal,” Daniel Effron, assistant professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, told Bloomberg.
In short, you can tell perceptions of gender equality have really shifted when the election of a female president is no longer seen as an accomplishment but is considered unremarkable instead.