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Women and Elective OfficePast, Present, and Future$
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Sue Thomas and Clyde Wilcox

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199328734

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199328734.001.0001

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Women’s Underrepresentation in U.S. Politics: The Enduring Gender Gap in Political Ambition

Women’s Underrepresentation in U.S. Politics: The Enduring Gender Gap in Political Ambition

Chapter:
(p.27) 2 Women’s Underrepresentation in U.S. Politics: The Enduring Gender Gap in Political Ambition
Source:
Women and Elective Office
Author(s):

Jennifer L. Lawless

Richard L. Fox

Gail Baitinger

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199328734.003.0002

In light of the importance of women’s presence in politics, it is critical to understand why so few women hold public office in the United States. This chapter argues that the fundamental reason for women’s underrepresentation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition, and it is persistent and unchanging. This conclusion is made by analyzing data the authors collected in 2001 and 2011 from thousands of male and female “potential candidates”—lawyers, business leaders, educators, and political activists, all of whom are well-situated to pursue a political candidacy. In addition to highlighting the persistent gender gap in political ambition, three central factors are identified that continue to hinder women’s full entrance into electoral politics. In the end, the chapter documents how far from gender parity we remain and the barriers and obstacles we must still overcome to achieve it.

Keywords:   Political ambition, Women’s presence in politics

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