Why are there still so few female governors?

August 27, 2021, 12:37 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Tina Tchen steps down as Time’s Up CEO, GM requries employees to report their vaccination status, and we ponder why there are still so few female governors. Have a relaxing weekend.

– No. 45. Kathy Hochul’s ascension to governor of New York has caused some overdue reflection on just how few U.S. states are or have been run by women.

Hochul is one of nine current female governors—and just the 45th woman ever to hold the job. Meanwhile, there have been “at least 1,000 man governors.” But to me, maybe the most interesting stat is one pointed out by this piece in The 19th: Twelve of those women—“got the position through rules in state constitutions that made them next in line as governor when the current officeholder was no longer able to serve.” (Six went on to be elected to full terms.) Of the current officeholders, a full four of nine (including Hochul) became governor through succession rather than election.

Forty-five is a small sample size, but it certainly seems to suggest that voters have no problem with a woman serving as lieutenant governor or some other “supporting” role, but are reluctant to back them for the big job—unless they’ve already had it. (Talk about a chicken-and-egg problem!)

The 19th talked to experts who study the dynamics around women and politics, identifying a few of the beliefs that stop people from supporting female gubernatorial candidates. Among them: a difficulty picturing a woman as “the final decision maker,” an erroneous conviction that women struggle to fundraise and win, and the depressing fact that “many voters still imagine men when asked about hypothetical governors.”

Hochul’s path to the governorship allowed her to bypass what Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, calls the “electability gauntlet” and will now have a chance to prove to voters that she can do the job. (And she’s not inheriting an easy one!) If she succeeds, perhaps she will join the ranks of women who go on to be elected for a full term.

Stepping in to play clean up isn’t exactly the best way to become the leader of your state. But just by governing, Hochul and her fellow female governors are helping break down the stereotypes that have kept women out of the office, and bringing us closer to the day when voters who close their eyes and imagine “a governor” will see a woman’s face looking back at them.

Kristen Bellstrom

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Turnover at Time's Up. Following uproar over contact between leaders at the anti-harassment organization Time's Up and the Cuomo administration as the former governor was accused of sexual harassment, Tina Tchen announced she would resign as CEO of the group. "Now is the time for Time’s Up to evolve and move forward as there is so much more work to do for women," she said in a statement. "It is clear that I am not the leader who can accomplish that in this moment." Washington Post

- Two crises. This comprehensive interactive piece goes deep on a "crisis within a crisis:" Black maternal mortality amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Black women are more likely than any other group to die from pregnancy complications, and lagging vaccination rates for pregnant women could make any already bad situation worse. CNN

- On trial. As R. Kelly's trial got further underway this week, a trend emerged: like prominent men accused of sexual assault before him, Kelly has chosen a woman as his most public-facing attorney. Specifically, Nicole Blank Becker, a former sex crimes prosecutor who now specializes in defending clients accused of sexual assault. What do these attorneys have in common? Argues writer Kathleen Walsh in this piece: "weaponizing [their] gender for [their] own advantage." The Cut

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Anne Finucane will retire as Bank of America vice chair by the end of the year; she is one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, known for steering the bank out of the 2008 financial crisis. Allure named Jessica Cruel editor-in-chief; she was previously the magazine's content director. Rachna Bhasin joins the board of PropertyGuru. Serena Dayal, investment director at SoftBank, has joined Picsart's board of directors. Melinda Chelilah, CEO of Tailored for Growth, and Jocelyn Mangan, CEO of Him for Her, joined the board of Wag. 


- Report to work. GM is the latest large company to develop a vaccination policy post-FDA approval for the vaccine. The automaker led by Mary Barra will require all salaried U.S. workers—about 48,000 people—to report their vaccination status. The company says the information will inform further policies around masking, social distancing, and staffing levels at facilities. Wall Street Journal

- Strong scent. Coty Inc., the beauty giant led by CEO Sue Nabi, says that fragrance sales are helping to drive the business as lockdowns continue across much of the world. Fragrance demand is especially strong in the U.S. and China, the company said during earnings. MarketWatch

- Rebuilding together. Sanna Marin, the 35-year-old prime minister of Finland, says that women need to be included in every aspect of rebuilding from the pandemic. "Equality is no silo, no single sector, but equality is something that happens when it is taken into account in all walks of life and policy," she argues. Bloomberg


Black female chefs are breaking up the cooking show boys' club Zora

A tennis star’s ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse. Why hasn’t the tour addressed it? Slate

54 years late, Dorothy Parker finally gets a tombstone New York Times


"People have come to know me as someone who really speaks my mind. Why is it easier to tell an entire crowd of people what I think than someone who is really close to me?"

-Singer Kacey Musgraves on her new album Star-Crossed

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