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Candidate X or Y, it doesn't matter, but credible female candidates seem on the rise.

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Both Germany and Liberia recently elected their first female leaders. In the case of Liberian head of state Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, she is also the first female to be elected president of an African nation.

The milestones lead to a natural examination of this country's female leadership. Though the United States has not yet had a female president, it seems inevitable that female candidates will become more common in upcoming presidential primaries.

Talk of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 is evidence of that. Or consider Condoleezza Rice. Though she has said she has no interest in being leader of the free world, her position as secretary of state has elevated the prominence of female leaders.

Fundamentally, whether one possesses a Y chromosome is of little concern. Female candidates should not be thought of as any more inferior or superior than their male counterparts. The skill set is what counts.

At the same time, it's only natural that there would be interest in a female presidential candidate, especially in the United States. Questions on how leadership might differ are unavoidable, particularly when there's no example in this country to -- for better or worse -- hold others up against.

Those who doubt that women are as capable as men in running a country need only to look around the world where credible female leadership is commonplace. Many countries, including Lat- via, Ireland, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Panama and Pakistan, have had or currently have female presidents or prime ministers.

One example, Golda Meir, served forcefully as prime minister of Israel from 1969-74, not to mention her pioneering accomplishments prior to her head-of-state role. Then there was Great Britain's Margaret Thatcher, another notable leader with considerable political skill and management ability.

Yet women are no strangers to leading in this country. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has wielded a considerable amount of power in her frequent role as the deciding swing vote on a number of divisive issues.

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Any number of women currently serve as legislators, governors, mayors, military leaders and so on. Nebraska was first to nominate women for governor in both major parties in 1986, when Kay Orr defeated Helen Boosalis.

There was a time when Western society looked on women as second- class citizens. Thankfully, that time has passed in this country and in many other parts of the globe.

As the world -- America included -- moves forward on this score, one should expect to see more formidable female contenders for the top job. It's expected that they will be held to the highest standards as would their male counterparts. Gender, however fascinating to some, should be a mere footnote.

(C) 2005 Omaha World-Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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