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Clinton's legacy for women

What if she had run a more feminine campaign, more along the lines of Barack Obama's?

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Hillary Clinton took a sledgehammer to the presidential glass ceiling and almost broke it. Like the "We Can Do It!" poster woman of World War II days, she rolled up her sleeves, flexed her biceps, and showed herself as capable as any male candidate seeking the highest office in the land.

From now on, it will be unremarkable to see a woman win primaries, or imagine one in the White House, said Mrs. Clinton as she ended her trailblazing campaign June 7. That counts as a major contribution in itself, and it may very well inspire more women to run for office.

But another legacy will linger from Clinton's near-success in achieving a historical first in the Oval Office. She forced people to think again about how women can bring unique perspectives to leadership roles – whether in business or politics – and how that can make a qualitative difference.

Studies of women in the corporate world show what that difference can be. Fortune 500 companies with the largest percentage of women on their boards produce equity returns that are 53 percent higher than those with the smallest percentage of women directors, according to a 2007 study by Catalyst, a longtime advocate for working women. The management consulting firm McKinsey finds similar results in Europe.

Why? Because generally, women's experience and leadership style complement those of men.

Economically, for instance, women are the more experienced consumers, responsible for 85 percent of all direct consumer spending in the US. As leaders, they tend to be team players.

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