Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Running for Office

Jaana Goodrich at AlterNet today and Ezra Klein in the last issue of The American Prospect both talk about the same problem -- women don't run for office often enough, and we don't have enough women represented in government. There are a slew of reasons for this, but the two writers focus on different explanations. Jaana says:
The study design doesn't let us measure what the actual impact of the different family obligations might be, but Ilana Goldberg, whose organization She Should Run encourages women to run for elected office, says that the most common reason women give when deciding not to run for office is, "maybe when the children are all grown." This has nothing to do with "political ambition" -- rather, it has everything to do with cultural expectations about who is responsible for the children and who has a built-in support system.
Ezra points to another reason (which Jaana awknowledges as well):
The common failure of these reforms is that they focused on helping candidates who are already running, when the problem for women is that they don't enter primaries in the first place. To examine why, Jennifer Lawless partnered with political scientist Richard Fox to conduct the Citizen Political Ambition Study, which polled nearly 4,000 prominent lawyers, business leaders, executives, educators, and political activists on their attitudes toward electoral service. Lawless and Fox found that women were far less likely than men to evince interest in running for office. Women were much more likely than men to cite family obligations, negative feelings toward the process of campaigning, and a belief that they weren't qualified. But the most powerful finding was that the women surveyed were far less likely to be recruited to run for office.
The bottom line is that the two reasons amount to the same thing: there are abysmally few women running for office. Until a few year ago, organizations like Emily's List and She Should Run just didn't exist because it wasn't a priority to get women into office. Once it's a priority, we start examining the reasons and look for ways to remedy them.

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