Foon Rhee

Women are with Hillary, but they’re not all alike

Hillary Clinton takes the stage with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado in Dade City, Fla., on Nov. 1 to make the case that Donald Trump doesn’t respect women.
Hillary Clinton takes the stage with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado in Dade City, Fla., on Nov. 1 to make the case that Donald Trump doesn’t respect women. Associated Press

Madam President – it has a nice ring to it.

If Hillary Clinton does break the highest, hardest glass ceiling on Tuesday, female voters will do a lot of the smashing.

Polls show a gigantic gender gap, even bigger than the typical one favoring the Democratic nominee – and no wonder, since Donald Trump has been fully exposed as a sexist pig. There are millions of reasons why Clinton plans to give her election night speech under the glass ceiling of Jacob Javitz Center in Manhattan.

Yet while most women are with her, they aren’t all alike. So new maps focusing on girls and young women of color caught my eye.

Black girls and women are concentrated in the South, while the highest share of Hispanic girls and women live in the West, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Nationwide, there are 17.4 million white girls and women ages 10 to 24 and 14.1 million girls and women of color. The Pacific coast is by far the most diverse, with 23 percent of all girls and women of color and only 11 percent of white girls and women, the briefing paper says.

The institute says its study should remind lawmakers that women of different ethnic, economic and social backgrounds have different priorities and issues. Black women disproportionately face police brutality, advocates say, while Hispanic women often can’t get health care and Asian women routinely get shorted on wages.

This week, the institute followed up with another study saying that women of color face an even longer road to equal pay. If trends over the last 30 years hold, while white women would achieve pay equity in 2056 – still way too long – black women would have to wait until 2124 and Hispanic women until 2248.

It didn’t help that Hispanic women lost ground, with a 4.5 percent decline in inflation-adjusted income between 2004 and 2014. Their income rose in only four states, including California.

All these issues will end up on her desk if Clinton does hang on and become our 45th president. And fairly or not, she’ll face expectations to deliver for women – just as Barack Obama had to deal with intense pressure to help African Americans.

Clinton’s detailed policy platform has a section labeled “Women’s rights and opportunity,” in which she stresses her support for equal pay and also pledges to protect reproductive freedom and confront violence against women, including sexual assaults on campus.

But for the most part, she focuses on proposals to help working families in general, knowing that women will be prime beneficiaries of more affordable child care, paid family leave, a minimum wage increase and improved health care.

Personally, I think Clinton was smart not to slice and dice the electorate into distinct demographic groups too much and make too many specific promises to each.

She pledges to be a president for all Americans. That’ll be a heavy lift, given how divided we are, but it’s the right goal.

By the numbers

The total number of girls and women ages 10 to 24 and the ethnic breakdown in selected states:

  • California: 3.95 million; 30% white, 48% Hispanic, 6% black, 12% Asian
  • Arizona: 668,000; 44% white, 41% Hispanic, 4% black, 3% Asian
  • Florida: 1.77 million; 46% white, 27% Hispanic, 21% black, 3% Asian
  • Nevada: 265,000; 40% white, 37% Hispanic, 9% black, 7% Asian
  • New York: 1.93 million; 51% white, 21% Hispanic, 17% black, 8% Asian
  • Oregon: 367,000; 69% white, 18% Hispanic, 2% black, 5% Asian
  • Texas: 2.8 million; 36% white, 45% Hispanic, 13% black, 4% Asian

Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research