But I’m Not Worthy

By Political Parity on November 14, 2014

The final major obstacle to more Republican women being elected is that we women don’t think we’re qualified to run. We disqualify ourselves right off the bat because we’re worried about our lack of political experience or that we won’t understand the millions of policy issues out there. Finally, we lack confidence. It takes several asks for a women to run for office, while it takes just one for most men. Telling.

Women struggle with wanting to feel 100% qualified; we need to let that go.

I am not suggesting that every American should or is qualified to run. To be clear: Personally, I don’t want a Sarah Palin, who cannot, for example, distinguish Alaska from Russia; nor do I want a Todd Akin, who cannot understand that there is no such thing as “legitimate” rape.  Indeed, before anyone considers running, people of both sexes need basic policy savvy and core competencies specific to the office for which they are running. The goal isn’t to be 100% qualified at first: just be willing to learn and recruit a strong staff. That’s half the battle.

The research is undeniable: women are qualified to run for higher office. Specifically, as Political Parity summarizes:

“previous research has shown that women tend to be higher-quality candidates—and higher-quality legislators—than their male counterparts. They are more likely, once elected, to sponsor and co-sponsor legislation, and to bring home “pork” to their congressional districts (Anzia & Berry). They are more transparent in leadership style, and often include more stakeholders in decision-making (Thomas). In the recent government shutdown crisis, it was Republican and Democratic women in the Senate working together that forced Congress back to work. Women in the two parties clearly disagree on issues, but both want to see changes in the way that government works. Importantly, people are far more likely to perceive female candidates as “honest”—a trait which voters of all stripes prioritize in assessing candidate quality.”

Lesson: Women should not count themselves out. If you are contemplating a run, look to strong role models like Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and Representative Ileana Ross-Lehtinen of Florida. Hire an exceptional campaign team that can brief you on policy issues and has managed—and won—a campaign. In my experience, it’s the women with the ‘go-it-alone’ attitudes that fail. Understand the importance of a team early on and invest in those with institutional knowledge. As much as families are critical for support during campaigns, they’re not always the best managers. And back to that confidence: just remember that most of what you’ll do as an elected official will be learned on the job.

Sarah Lenti is the founder of her political consulting firm, SML Advisory Partners. Sarah’s clients range widely from candidates and politicians to international non-profits, independent documentary films and super PACS.  Previously, she served under Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the National Security Council, worked on three Presidential election campaigns, and led the policy research for Governor Mitt Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case for American GreatnessConnect with Sarah on Twitter with the hashtags #PrimaryHurdles and #GOPWomen.