The Impact of Women in Elective Office
The Research Inventory—intended for political leaders, campaign professionals, journalists, scholars, and the general public—provides a systematic review of current and past research in the field of women and American politics. The goals are to identify strategies that can be used to elect more women and to determine whether there are important research questions yet to be addressed. The study was conducted by Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.
Though we can only imagine what society might look like had more women held office throughout history, research can help us determine the impact women who have served in elective office have had on American politics.
Women Candidates and their Campaigns
Conventional wisdom often holds that women candidates have a more difficult path to elected office than their male counterparts. However, recent studies of the performance of women candidates demonstrate that they fare the same as, if not better than, men in similar races.
Women’s Election to Congress
Due to the vastly greater number of male Representatives and Senators, the incumbency effect has a profound influence on the opportunity for women candidates. If we could encourage more women to run they could use the incumbency effect to their advantage.
Reaching Executive Office
The presidency—the highest "glass ceiling"—has yet to be penetrated by a woman. Currently women hold just 6 of the 50 governorships. Gender bias toward female presidential and gubernatorial candidates still present high hurdles for women seeking executive office.
Recruitment and Routes to Office
Social networks and experiences with political parties, interest groups, donors, voters, and the media are all affected by gender. What does this mean for how women increase the likelihood of securing public office?
Women Candidates and Political Parties
The precise role that parties play varies across states and levels of office. A party can recruit and train candidates, provide endorsements and funding and act as a gatekeeper to a candidate when they seek nomination.
Media Coverage of Women Candidates
Though early studies found that male candidates received more total and better coverage than female candidates, recent studies suggest that the amount of coverage has stabilized. Gender bias in coverage, however, continues to plague women’s candidacies.
Women of Color in American Politics
To a large extent, recent gains in women’s office-holding have been fueled by the achievements of women-of-color candidates. Many challenges remain, however, in order for women candidates of color to reach office in proportion to their share of the population.
Money and Women Candidates
Donors, political parties, and political action committees may be more skeptical about women’s viability as candidates. Yet women’s PACs such as the nonpartisan Women’s Campaign Fund and the partisan EMILY’s List and WISH List exist specifically to give women a boost in fundraising.