Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD

First "French Women Don’t Get Fat," and now a French woman may become the next president of France.

Despite the fact that French politics have been controlled by men, almost forever, it seems that Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal (love that last name!) is not only running for president but running as "mother-protector of the nation." And political experts think she may just win.

What I find interesting about this political race is that this 53-year-old elegant and articulate woman is using the gender card with courage and confidence. She is not trying "to pass" as a male politician.

Royal’s sex has become an asset in a country where there is justifiable anxiety about whether the government can continue to support programs that have built a "safety net" in areas like healthcare, welfare, childcare and education.

Is a woman inherently more sensitive to the needs of the population? Some supporters clearly think so. "A woman is more sensitive than a man, much more interested in the personal, the social, the welfare of all," Luigi Munforte, 54, the representative of the CFDT, the biggest private sector labor union, told the New York Times.

Based on polling in France, 94 percent of the population believes a woman could be president. That is up from 52 percent in 1972. Thirty-seven percent of the French queried in another poll said that they were attracted to Royal because she is a woman.

Does the attraction of a woman as head of state cross the Atlantic? With Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton as the presumed front-runner for the Democratic Party, the question is truly important for the first time in U.S. history. Would she, as a woman, handle the war differently than a man? View the elderly, the unemployed, and disenfranchised differently?

With the flag about to drop on the U.S. presidential race, Clinton’s campaign choices could benefit from observing the response of a country that has never had a woman as its leader. Clearly both women have attracted interest from supporters and detractors because of their sex. The near future of women in political leadership positions will most certainly be affected by the choices that these women make, as well as how we, as voters, respond to the image that they and their political handlers create.

Patricia Yarberry Allen, director of the New York Menopause Center, is a gynecologist affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and is on the board of Women’s Voices for Change.

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