Recruitment and the Underrepresentation of Women in Political Offices

Mar 26 '10


bq. Highly qualified and politically well-connected women from both major political parties are less likely than similarly situated men to be recruited to run for public office by all types of political actors. They are less likely than men to be recruited intensely. And they are less likely than men to be recruited by multiple sources. Although we paint a picture of a political recruitment process that seems to suppress women’s inclusion, we also offer the first evidence of the significant headway women’s organizations are making in their efforts to mitigate the recruitment gap, especially among Democrats. These findings are critically important because women’s recruitment disadvantage depresses their political ambition and ultimately hinders their emergence as candidates.

That is the conclusion of a new study by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox. I’ve pasted one of their graphs above, which shows that men are recruited more often than women with comparable political experience. And note that this is not because men are more likely to win: there is little evidence that women candidates suffer at the ballot box.

In their broader research program, Lawless and Fox have shown that women’s underrepresentation has a lot to do with a “gender gap” in political ambition. Closing the gender gap in recruitment may be one solution.

Here is a gated version. Here is an earlier ungated version. See also these earlier posts.