Why women don’t run


We’re talking women and political campaigns in class today.  Though there’s lots of good PS research on this, I think there’s still a fairly common conception that the lack of women political office-holders has at least something to do with voters being less willing to vote for women.  The truth is, when women run, women win.  At the same rates as men that is.  The big problem is getting enough women to run for office.  And a big part of that problem is that women– even controlling for many other factors– simply have less political ambition than men.  Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox very nicely summarize their research on the matter:

We offer clear and compelling evidence that women, even in the highest tiers of professional accomplishment, are substantially less likely than men to demonstrate ambition to seek elected office . These results hold regardless of age, partisan affiliation, income, and profession . In addition, despite the historic events of the last seven years – such as the war in Iraq, frustration with the political process, and the emergence of a more diverse group of political candidates and leaders – overall levels of political ambition for women and men have remained fairly constant . In 2008, men continue to enjoy more comfort, confidence, and freedom than women when thinking about running for office.   We link this persistent gender gap in political ambition to several factors . Women are less likely than men to be willing to endure the rigors of a political campaign . They are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office . They are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family obligations with a political career . They are less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office . And they are less likely than men to perceive a fair political environment.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Why women don’t run

  1. Jason says:

    It seems like a big jump from all of the factors believed to be relevant, including lack of party recruiting and freedom to balance work/family/politics, to go straight to focusing solely on women having less political ambition! I’m not diminishing personal choices but by focusing only on that you’re letting our political institutions and culture off the hook. I’m sure that wasn’t your intention.

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