How do women reach elective office? Where did they get their start? What role does recruitment play in the candidacy decision? Women’s underrepresentation in politics and gender differences in campaigns can make for different perspectives on candidacy. Meanwhile, 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?

Future Research Directions

More research is needed on the process by which interest groups, PACs, and parties identify candidates for office. Who is mentioned in the media—and who is not mentioned—deserves more analysis as well. Future research could be modeled on Niven’s study that examined candidates who declared but dropped out, or Frederick and Burrell’s study comparing the candidate pool with actual candidates in open-seat congressional races. These types of studies could shed light on the pre-primary candidate emergence process.

Niven, David. “Throwing Your Hat Out of the Ring: Negative Recruitment and the Gender Imbalance in State Legislative Candidacy.” Politics & Gender 2.4 (2006): 473-489; Barbara Burrell and Brian Frederick, Political Windows of Opportunity: Recruitment Pools, Gender Politics and Congressional Open Seats (2007). Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association.

Further Reading

image of book It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office
Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox | 2010

In this revised version of their popular book It Takes a Candidate, Lawless and Fox examine the ambition gap among women and men citizens. They conduct a panel study of citizens positioned to run for office from the fields of business, law, education, and political activism based on surveys conducted in 2001 and 2008. Topics of the book include the relationship between gender and family life, recruitment to politics, and the role of qualifications. Their account emphasizes the effects of traditional gender socialization on political ambition. They find that women are less likely than men to have considered running for office. The authors argue that this ambition gap is central to the underrepresentation of women in elective office.

Image of report Poised to Run: Women's Pathways to the State Legislatures
Kira Sanbonmatsu, Susan J. Carroll, Debbie Walsh | 2009

This report by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) compares women's routes to the state legislatures at two points in time, drawing on the 2008 and 1981 CAWP Recruitment Studies that surveyed women state legislators and their male colleagues nationally. Among its findings, the report argues that more women can run for office because the pool of women eligible to hold state legislative office is larger than is commonly believed. The report also shows that women state legislators were much more likely than men to have been recruited to run for office, suggesting that women do not need to have longstanding political ambition before becoming candidates and winning election.