Every podium in America is made for a six-foot man.
Voters decide whether a woman candidate is ready to lead, in part, based on her personal presentation. The emphasis voters place on personal style is substantial and multi-faceted. It’s important for women to have visibility early in the campaign.
Although all candidates are judged on these attributes to some degree, women have a steeper climb—they must work harder— in convincing voters to judge them on their merits.
In order to be successful in this reality, women must be well-suited for the job: dressing appropriately for campaign events, whether they are at new construction sites or at a senior center, is critical. In short, dress the part: don’t wear heels to a picnic. And even casual attire must be professional. For more on clothing and style, see Elements of Style.
Tone of voice and speaking style also factor into the candidate’s presentation. Voters are in tune to whether a woman candidate sounds authoritative or bossy, serious or boring, high-pitched and unsure, or clear and steady.
Voters say women convey their qualifications by:
- Being prepared
- Answering tough questions
- Speaking with authority
- Projecting confidence
- Making and maintaining eye contact
- Commanding respect
The way a woman runs her campaign is also important. It is an opportunity to showcase that she has her act together, is a good leader, and an effective manager.
Positive leadership styles that work for women also include being in touch, meeting with voters, and bringing men and women together or Democrats and Republicans together to get results. The latter is different than traditional messaging about reaching across the aisle. Results are key.