Why don’t more women run for office? This question has perplexed activists, party elite, academics and others. In “Poised to Run: Women’s Pathways to the State Legislatures” by three scholars affiliated with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), Kira Sanbonmatsu, Susan Carroll and Debbie Walsh, offer some answers. Frankly, their Executive Summary is worthy of a poster. I encourage you to read the full report at http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/research/reports/PoisedtoRun.pdf . But, I am going to review the Executive Summary.
- Women need to be recruited
- Political Parties Matter
- Organizations Help Women Run
- More Women Can Run
- Resources are Important
The truth is that two major points holding women back are institutional sexism that permeates most of the points noted above, as well as women themselves. Women are less apt to think of themselves as experts in a field (see Informed Opinions for more information). Likewise, party gatekeepers are also less likely to think of women as a successful candidate. Thus, recruiting women is important. Gatekeepers need to take special care to not only recruit and vet women, but to also nurture them through the pipeline.
Related to this is how important both parties and organizations are to women candidates. This is the official parties, but also partisan organization and multi-partisan organizations like the National Women’s Political Caucus, Chamber of Commerce, and other civic groups. We see more women running at the local or municipal levels, so there are women who can run. They just need encouragement. This encouragement needs to include financial support. The authors of the “Poised to Run” study note that it is easier for male candidates to raise money due to their connections and assumptions about the viability of their candidacy. Clearly, our elected officials are more educated and more wealthy than the average populace—especially when we look at federal elected officials in both Canada and the United States.
I am hopeful that during the upcoming election in British Columbia and 2012 election in the United States, that more women candidates will throw their hat into the race. And, I also hope that as you review this blog post that you see the full report and also think about supporting a woman candidate in your riding or district.
While this article was focused on the issue of gender, I surmise that the authors would also offer that race is important issue to examine as well. Looking at the federal levels of representation in Canada and the United States there is not parity based on gender or race among the sitting members of Parliament or Congress. However, the focus of this study was gender. I do encourage you to look at other reports published by CAWP http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/. If you want more Canadian focused research about women in politics, I suggest Equal Voice http://www.equalvoice.ca/.