It's been a big problem for Romney throughout his political career. He lost the women's vote when he won his race for Governor in Massachusetts by 4-points. When he ran for U.S. Senate in that state, he lost the female vote to Ted Kennedy by 24-points. His troubles with women voters continued throughout this year's GOP primary.
Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer writes Romney's persistent problems relating to women likey come from his personal history.
For the most part, his life has been characterized by his involvement in a string of virtually all-male or heavily male-dominated institutions. "Of most of the environments that he's electively joined, women are, if not structurally excluded from leadership, they are historically excluded," observes Joanna Brooks, a senior correspondent at Religion Dispatches and a Mormon feminist who's been studying Romney for years.
Romney’s professional life was spent in the sausage fest of high finance and politics. That's true of lots of men, especially rich ones who enter politics. But Romney is also steeped in a religious culture in which gender roles historically have been rigidly segregated and in which men and women operate in distinctly different spheres. His role in the male-dominated Mormon church has gone far beyond spending some time in the pews every Sunday. Romney was groomed from an early age to assume responsibility as a leader in the LDS church.
Brooks notes that it's not unusual among Mormon men of his generation to have difficulties relating to women as equals in the professional world. She explains that they came of age at a time when the church openly opposed the women's movement, which presented a significant challenge to a church whose theological and cultural logic is organized around strongly defined gender roles. As a result, she says, Mormon men of that era sometimes seem to have the sense that "there is no proper way to engage with women as adult equals."
After attending an all-boys prep school in Michigan and then spending a year at Stanford, Romney, like most Mormon men, spent almost three years cloistered with other young men as a missionary. He was dispatched to France, where female missionaries were present in small numbers but dating was strictly verboten. Mission counselors urge their young charges to marry quickly upon returning home, a reflection of the church's emphasis on marriage, its strict ban on premarital sex, and its emphasis on chastity. In Romney's case, within three months of returning from his mission he married the girl he'd pledged to wed while in high school.