As you most likely know, Hilary Rodham Clinton has officially announced her candidacy for President in 2016.
But before she announced that she would once again vie to become the first woman president, she did something that made a statement in multiple ways: she hired a Google executive to become the first ever female CTO of a presidential campaign.
What does this move mean to her campaign, and what does it say about the current role of technology and innovation in our country?
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Who Runs the World? Girls.
According to the Washington Post, Stephanie Hannon, who was Google’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, will be leading a team of developers and engineers “to devise Web sites, apps and other tools for the former secretary of state and her staff to engage with supporters and voters.”
Hannon hails from Silicon Valley and has spent two decades working for the likes of Google, Facebook, Cisco and Intel. She helped develop the Google Maps app and managed its worldwide development. As of recently, she’s been focused on building tools geared towards social impact, specifically creating tools to share information about elections and help communities during times of crisis. She also boasts a long list of degrees from Stanford and Harvard.
Cleary she’s qualified. But why did Hilary Clinton pilfer a tech giant to claim Hannon for her own campaign? Because big data has become necessary to earn a spot at the White House.
Over the past few years, Washington has been luring tech executives out of Silicon Valley into the political sphere. In 2008 and 2012, Obama relied on a big data strategy, collecting and analyzing massive amount of voter data to secure his presidency. Just like in marketing, political figures have a finite budget and intend to optimize every dollar while on the campaign trail.
Back in 2008, Obama engaged with voters via the net, a strategy that Clinton overlooked and suffered from. According to Bloomberg Business, President Obama raised more funding dollars from digital networking than Clinton did from lunches and dinners. But with her new hire this year, she seems to want to do things differently. It looks as if Clinton intends to engage with voters and avoid her 2008 demise.
Closing the Gender Gap
Hannon’s appointment makes another political proclamation: it’s time for women to break that obnoxious glass ceiling in the workplace, especially in the field of technology. Clinton is a strong advocate for diminishing the gender gap in Silicon Valley (and throughout the nation) and has been encouraging young women into leadership positions in STEM-related industries. Even in a forward-thinking sector, a vicious gender gap still exists. Woman in Silicon Valley with a bachelor's degree are paid on average 60% less than a man with the same degree.
At a recent Lead On Conference for Women, the former U.S. Secretary of State spoke on the necessity of getting more women at the top. "Building a diverse talent pool can't just be a nice thing to do. It is a must do," Clinton told the audience. "When women's participation is limited, our country's prosperity is limited."
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This gender gap continues to play a role in voter assessment of Clinton, with 56 percent of women having a favorable view while 32 percent see her unfavorably. Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones reports, "all major female demographic groups view Clinton more positively than do their male counterparts, including by age, education, race, marital status and partisanship."
Her high familiarity rating gives her a competitive edge amongst the competition. Jones go on to saying, "To defeat Clinton, her challengers from either party would have to weaken her appeal to women as much as possible and develop an equally strong or stronger advantage among men."
After her loss in the 2008 campaign, Clinton has learned from her mistakes and is emulating Obama's historic campaign which led him to victory. WIth Hannon by her side, Clinton can utiliza large data analysis of voters adapting to their wants and needs.
Clinton practiced what she preached by hiring the first woman CTO for a presidential campaign. Hannon is not the only woman holding a top position on Clinton's tech operations team. She will be joined by Digital Director Katie Dowd and Deputy Digital Director Jenna Lowenstein. By hiring Hannon, she will continue to crack the glass ceiling that perpetuates the gender gap. And quite possibly, she’ll crack the code to becoming president—an even tighter boy’s club no less.