Synopses & Reviews
Women remain dramatically underrepresented in elective office, including in entry-level political offices. While they enjoy the freedom to stand for office and therefore have an equal legal footing with men, this persistent gender imbalance raises pressing questions about democratic legitimacy, the inclusivity of American politics, and the quality of political representation. The reasons for women's underrepresentation remain the subject of much debate. One explanation--that the United States lacks sufficient openings for political newcomers--has become less compelling in recent years, as states that have adopted term limits have not seen the expected gains in women's office holding. Other accounts about candidate scarcity, gender inequalities in society, and the lingering effects of gendered socialization have some merit; however, these accounts still fail to explain the relatively low numbers.
Drawing upon original surveys conducted in 1981 and 2008 by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) of women state legislators across all fifty states, and follow-up interviews after the 2008 survey, the authors find that gender differences in pathways to the legislatures, first evident in 1981, have been surprisingly persistent over time. They find that, while the ambition framework better explains men's decisions to run for office, a relationally embedded model of candidate emergence better captures women's decision-making, with women's decisions more often influenced by the encouragement and support of parties, organizations, and family members.
By rethinking the nature of women's representation, this study calls for a reorientation of academic research on women's election to office and provides insight into new strategies for political practitioners concerned about women's political equality.
"Using an impressive data set spanning almost 30 years, Susan Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu argue convincingly that women's pathways to elected office are varied and sometimes unique. The authors remind us that political ambition theory drawn predominantly from men's experiences can be woefully incomplete when understanding women's political careers."--Cindy Simon Rosenthal, Director and Curator, Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, University of Oklahoma
"More than an academic analysis, Carroll and Sanbonmatsu offer practical advice for overcoming the barriers and obstacles that have discouraged--and sometimes prevented-- women from running. More Women Can Run offers data and insights that will help close the elective gender gap--a gap, the authors argue, that should (and must) be closed if we are to move forward toward that 'more perfect union.'"--Donna Brazile, Veteran Democratic political strategist, commentator, and former Campaign Manager for Al Gore
"I applaud Susan Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu for their detailed work on the causes of under-representation of women legislators, as well as their identification of ways we might redress this balance. I hope their recognition that the encouragement of the party apparatus is essential for developing female candidates will be a reminder to my party that we can and must do more to foster women candidates in the Republican party. For the good of our party and our nation, we must have more women running for and holding public office."--Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey
"More Women Can Run is a 'must read' for activists, practitioners and academics. Carroll and Sanbonmatsu document what we at EMILY's List have long known: when women support women, women can run and win. We all have a role to play through urging more women to run, backing their candidacies, and contributing financially to their campaigns. This work helps us understand how to build a true representative democracy that includes women."--Ellen Malcolm, Founder and Chair of the Board, EMILY's List
About the Author
Susan J. Carroll
is Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies and Senior Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In 2014 Carroll was awarded the Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies Award by the Political Studies Association.
Kira Sanbonmatsu is Professor of Political Science and Senior Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Chapter 1 Rethinking Candidate Emergence
Chapter 2 Can More Women Run? Reevaluating Pathways to Office
Chapter 3 Gender and the Decision to Run for Office
Chapter 4 Republican Women State Legislators: Falling Behind
Chapter 5 Democratic Women State Legislators: On the Rise
Chapter 6 The Future of Women's Officeholding