University of Wisconsin experts discussed the changing political landscape Monday as politicians like Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton continue breaking ground for women in politics.
Students and faculty discussed topics pertinent to the upcoming election, such as current legislation and the treatment of women in politics.
Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and gender and women’s studies at UW, opened the panel with a short discussion of gender stereotypes and mental associations. Hyde showed an extensive list of emotional adjectives used to describe women and compared it to a short list of emotional adjectives used to describe men.
Hyde said men in leadership roles are perceived as possessing dominance, self-confidence and ambition, whereas women in leadership roles are perceived as possessing compassion, affection and helpfulness. She said this difference in perception can cause problems for candidates like Clinton who are trying to win office while breaking traditional gender roles.
Jane Collins, a UW professor who studies gender and policy, discussed legislation that affects women and how the election could have an impact on the direction of women’s rights.
“A new crop of political figures at all levels — in the White House, the Congress and the state houses — will have an opportunity to shape work-family policy in a lot of different ways,” Collins said.
Current legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which protects women from sex-based wage discrimination, and the Paid Family Leave Act have major effects on women today, Collins said. She said platforms of current political candidates can change these specific pieces of legislation and many others like it, and she stressed the importance of knowing what each candidate stands for before people vote.
Jenny Higgins, an expert on women’s health at UW, discussed statistics on contraceptives and abortion and the influence politicians can have on these topics.
“Since Roe v. Wade there have been a little over a thousand state abortion restrictions and about a quarter of those have happened since 2011,” Higgins said.
With an increase in abortion restrictions, Higgins described the types of people getting abortions. Higgins said 60 percent of people who get abortions are already mothers and only 42 percent of people who get abortions fall under the poverty line.
Hyde said she hopes students understand the importance of their vote in elections as it can have a ripple effect and make changes in many more areas than initially expected.
“It’s not only about the president who’s elected, but then the advisors and appointees,” Higgins said.