Why women don’t run

Well, a month too late for my Gender & Politics class, the team of Lawless and Fox has released their latest report on the under-representation of women in political office.  Short version.  Not enough women run for office– when they do run, they do win.  Slightly longer version: women don’t run, in large part, because of important attitudinal differences about politics.  Drum excerpts the 7 major causes of less women candidates, but I do find the differences in attitudes most interesting, so I emboldened them:

  1. Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates.
  2. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s candidacies aggravated women’s perceptions of gender bias in the electoral arena.
  3. Women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.
  4. Female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident, and more risk averse than their male counterparts.
  5. Women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns.
  6. Women are less likely than men to receive the
    suggestion to run for office—from anyone.
  7. Women are still responsible for the majority of childcare and household tasks.

These fundamental differences between how men and women perceive themselves in relation to the political environment seems quite pervasive and difficult to eradicate.  We can get men to do more housework and we can get more people to suggest to women that they run for office, but so long as they lack the same political comfort and self-confidence as men, they will lag in running for office.  I’d love to see how these attitudinal differences compare cross-nationally.

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

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