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North Carolina Women In Office Outnumber Other States

This story was written by James Layman, Technician

The number of women in office and running for office in North Carolina this year surpasses that of any other state in the Southeast, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

The 2008 presidential election isn't the only ballot to see an increased number of females running for office.

For North Carolinians, both U.S. Senate candidates are women -- Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan. Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue is running for the governor's office. And the majority of the Council of State -- a 10-member group of statewide elected officials -- could also be female.

This trend on North Carolina's ballot reflects an upswing in women's roles in nation politics.

"Women are more aware of themselves and what they can do these days," Taylor Nelson, a freshman in First Year College, said. "More women want to have equal rights and they're trying to find that equality. More of them are aware of their abilities and they're not letting the fact that they're women keep them from running for a particular office."

In an election where both presidential candidates are calling for change, Derek Gatlin, a senior in sociology, said he feels that a female in any office would do that office good.

"There was a study done at Harvard about testosterone levels and an increased propensity for risk-taking," Gatlin said. "Because men have a higher level of testosterone, they are more likely to take higher risks."

The study focused on risk-taking in the financial market, and said men are more likely to take unnesecary risks with money because they have a higher level of testosterone. The study also said that women are less likely to take high-level risks in situations.

"I know it's weird to be saying that women are more in control of their emotions in times of crisis, but that's what the studies are saying," Gatlin said. "Testosterone is what made the stock brokers take on excessive risks."

Nelson said women are becoming more aware of themselves and their abilities and this is causing more women to push for equal rights. However, she doesn't believe women will use their gender to influence policy issues.

"They're going to try and make their gender as irrelevant as possible," Nelson said. "When you bring gender into the picture, it becomes sexist and it keeps people from focusing on the actual issues."

Holly Parsons, a senior in marine biology, said she doesn't believe Sen. Hillary Clinton running for president pushed more women to run for office, but that it shows trends that are apparent in the state.

"Hillary running for president wasn't that start of it all," Parsons said. "She's more a sign of the changing times that women are eventually going to run for office in as many positions as men."

While more women are running for federal and state offices, Parsons said it is difficult for some people to look past gender and that change is going to take longer than one election.

"It has a lot to do with background and how you were raised when it comes to whether or not you can accept a female in a position of power," she said. "People might be OK with women in local and state offices, but it's going to take much longer as far as the large positions go."

Several political advertisements focused on Clinton's gender, discussing her looks rather than focus on the issues and where she stood. Nelson said advertisements such as these caused many people to focus on her gender, which likely cost her several votes.

"People had different expectations than they would of a male candidate," Parsons said. "People perceived her as cold while male candidates who were just as col as she was didn't get any flack about it. People expected a maternal glow from her just because she's a woman."

Nelson said she believes Sen. John McCain picked Gov. Sarah Palin, not only to draw in conservative male voters, but to attract voters who were originally going to vote for Clinton.

"I don't think people who were going to vote for Hillary are going to vote for McCain and Palin just because Palin is a woman," she said. "Hillary and Palin have completely opposite views on all of the issues. I feel like Palin has a lot of the same views as males and that's one of the reasons John McCain picked her."

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