Women less likely to run
Women are less likely than men to run for political offices because they receive less encouragement to run and often think of themselves as less qualified than men, according to a study published this month.
In the study, reported in this month's American Journal of Political Science, approximately 2,000 men and about 1,800 women from such professions as law, business, education and political activism were surveyed. Of the respondents - chosen because their jobs are traditional springboards to political office - 59 percent of men and 43 percent of women said they had considered running.
In a summary of their work, Brown University political science professor Jennifer Lawless and Union College political science professor Richard Fox wrote, "We find that women, regardless of their age, partisan affiliation, income, and profession, are significantly less likely than men to express interest in seeking public office."
The study also found that women are twice as likely as men to think of themselves as unqualified to run.
"Women are also significantly less likely than men to think they would win their first campaign," the summary said.
However, female politicians often win elections and are just as successful at their work as men, and it is important to recruit them, Lawless said.
"There's no bias against women candidates, but women don't perceive that," she said. "Touting the notion that when women run, they win - that's important."
Sarah Brewer, associate director of AU's Women & Politics Institute, said that it is important to teach young women that political office is an option for them.
"It's a whole resocialization process," Brewer said. "It needs to be a targeted act."
The institute conducts several programs focused on developing leadership in women, although Brewer said, "We are sort of preaching to the choir," because AU students are politically active as it is. Women should be encouraged to think about politics even before they enter college, she said.
"We try to reach beyond the pool that we have here," Brewer said.
Diane Singerman, who teaches in the School of Public Affairs, said she agreed with Brewer that women need more confidence and encouragement to run for office.
Singerman also suggested looking to countries such as France and Norway for ways to get women into politics.
She said the French recently passed a law mandating that local elections have a certain percentage of female candidates. Political parties in the United States could temporarily use an approach like this, Singerman said.
"You don't need quotas after a while," because women would eventually run on their own, she said.
"If political parties are not promoting women self-consciously, it's not surprising that there are few women running," Singerman said.
Lawless said that beyond getting women to run for office, it is important to support them as candidates and donate money to their campaigns.
Singerman saidt money is an important factor. She said, "There's still very few women who are millionaires and billionaires in their own right, and that is a big part of public life these days"