Why aren’t more women running for office? New study reveals women don’t think they’re qualified
Local group working to change that perception
MADISON, Wis. — A record number of women will be sworn in this week in the nation’s capitol. Muslim women are serving for the first time, as are Native American women. The historic firsts come from both parties. But women still make up less than a quarter of all political leaders nationwide.
Local groups are pushing to change that.
During the last general election, women were elected to just 23 percent of all offices at national, state, and local levels. But the problem isn’t that women don’t win their races. It’s that they’re just not running in the first place.
According to a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, confidence is one of the key factors in women choosing not to run.
The researchers say female leaders they studied were nervous about going door-to-door asking for signatures to get on the ballot and that they also didn’t want to challenge an incumbent.
But sometimes, it’s as simple as women not feeling qualified, when they are.
“It’s similar to research done when women apply for jobs,” said Jenny Erickson, community development educator at UW-Extension. “They feel like they have to check all the boxes and be qualified for every single aspect of a position whereas men might not feel that same way. Women might not feel like they have to do all 10 things on the list but 11 and 12 things as well.”
The Wisconsin Women’s Council says that women bring a strong passion for issues like health care, education, and child care to the floor. While men also address these issues, women deal with them in a different way, which the council says more effectively represents their increasingly diverse constituents.
“When women run, they tend to win on the same levels as men. And when women serve on boards, they bring up issues that may not be brought up when it’s all men,” said Erickson. While men also address these issues, women understand them in a unique way, which Erickson says helps them better represent their increasingly diverse constituents.
Another challenge women face is finding where to run. “Women don’t tend to want to run against an incumbent. So finding the right seat is crucial,” said Erickson. The UW-Extension helps women find seats that are vacant or local boards that already have women on them.
According to the Wisconsin Women’s Council, the 2019-2020 class of Wisconsin state legislators will include 35 women, 27 percent in total, which is an increase. But the organization says they won’t be fully satisfied until women have achieved equal representation of 50 percent.
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