Over the years, I've run across enough of these studies and witnessed enough real-life examples (both in politics and back when I worked for one of these high-end management consultants) to buy the idea that both men and women still hold plenty of knee-jerk biases against female leaders. Alas, I can't think of any way this situation will improve substantially until there are simply so many gals in positions of authority that people get used to seeing them there and stop thinking of them (if only subconsciously) as odd.

This is why I tend to be skeptical when I go to these women-in-power luncheons and love-ins that are periodically held in Washington, at which ambitious gals sit around and gush about how great it is that women so often choose not to follow the old paths to success but instead blaze new trails--perhaps lower profile but equally valid. (e.g., Why put in the hours to become partner at some soulless high-powered lobbying firm when you can start your own small practice that let's you work only on those projects that make you feel good about yourself?) 

Now, I'm all for non-traditional careers and family-friendly work schedules. I've got a pretty flexible schedule myself. But women shouldn't kid ourselves. We also need to get in there and mix it up with the boys in all those tedious, old-school institutions as well--big name law firms, prestigious universities, blue-chip corporations, corporate boards, the presidency. (And don't get me started about the dearth of women in opinion journalism.) Otherwise, we can't possibly expect Americans to get used to the idea of women telling them what to do--beyond their mommies demanding that they brush their teeth and eat their spinach, of course.

This is also why I've got a sympathetic spot for Hillary. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to dislike her that have nothing to do with her gender. Then again, it can be awfully tough to determine to what degree certain charges--such as Hil's reputation as cold and robotic and school marmish--are fueled by deeply ingrained biases. And while we all like to tell ourselves that we personally are above such prejudices and only judge candidates on their individual merits, it bears noting that one of the most enduring political cliches out there is: Oh, I don't have anything against female candidates in general; I just don't like this one. 

 --Michelle Cottle