Face of a Republican: Why aren’t there more female politicians?

2014-01-11T18:00:00Z Face of a Republican: Why aren’t there more female politicians?By Theresa Myers, For The Sentinel The Sentinel
January 11, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

Before listing the reasons for the under-representation of female politicians and suggesting solutions, I want to explain why it needs to be pointed out.

Per the 2012 U.S. Census, females comprise 50.2 percent of the U.S. population and 51.2 percent of Pennsylvania’s population. Women are equally qualified to perform the duties and responsibilities of positions in politics. Many women are passionate about certain women’s issues, and this can make them a powerful voice to advocate for those issues.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says women make up 17.8 percent of Pennsylvania’s state legislature, holding 45 of the 253 seats. In the 113th U.S. Congress, women hold 99, or 18.5 percent, of the 535 seats. Cumberland County has women in three of its 11 elected offices, or 27 percent.

Dr. Jennifer Lawless, Director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute, appeared on C-Span Jan. 3. During the interview, she discussed the findings from her March 2013 study co-authored with Richard L. Fox titled, “Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The gender gap in young Americans’ political ambition.” The study surveyed college students, both male and female, aged 18-25. To view the interview, visit http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/ImpactofWom

Lawless said in the interview that women are significantly more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates, which is not the case. To the contrary, the research shows women’s electoral success, regardless of the position they seek, and fundraising prowess is equal to men.

According to Lawless and Fox, the main barrier to women running for office is self-doubt. They don’t see themselves as being as qualified as men to run for office. Another barrier is the self-assessed perception that women are less competitive, less confident, and more risk averse than their male counterparts. The advice that Lawless gives to counter this is to encourage young girls to participate in competitive sports and student government so they can learn it’s OK to compete, win and lose. Encouraging women to join the College Democrats and College Republicans clubs also shows promise.

Recruiting, grooming, and mentoring can also be provided along with encouragement to qualified females to run for elected office. This encouragement can come from a number of sources: parents, other relatives, teachers/coaches and friends. In their study, Fox and Lawless found that, “Although young women are less likely than young men ever to have considered running for office, they are just as likely as men to respond positively to encouragement to run. Early parental support for a political career, therefore, is a vital ingredient for closing the gender gap in political ambition.”

In the surveyed college group, occupation bias remains for both genders. Females are seen as best suited for nursing, teaching and being a secretary. Few people regularly encourage women to think of politics as a career option, thus fewer are likely to consider it. Whereas, men are commonly encouraged from a young age to think of politics as a viable career.

Political leaders looking to help close the gender gap can help by understanding that occupations typically associated with those in politics — business leaders, lawyers, political activists and educators — are not likely to be held by most women. In order to identify a larger pool of qualified women, leaders will need to reshape their typical stepping- stone viewfinders to be open to a more diverse occupation list.

Another consideration is women are still responsible for the majority of family tasks, which results in them being away from the traditional time frame exposure to the political career ladder. Therefore, women that may desire to enter the political arena are likely to be older than their male counterparts when deciding to do so.

Women supporting each other is important. Every time I see a women running for office, I get excited. Logically, however, my vote must go to the individual I believe to be the most qualified and best able to fulfill the duties of the office. Gender can’t be used as a trump card.

Theresa Myers is a Republican political activist who lives in Cumberland County. She can be reached at tmm336@gmail.com. Her column appears Sundays.

Copyright 2015 The Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Richard
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    Richard - January 14, 2014 7:52 pm
    Hey Mikey, that inning is over. Go back out to right field with your catcher's mitt! You might get a participation trophy!
  2. michael
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    michael - January 14, 2014 6:18 am
    Yes, I would much rather have someone who was thrown off of the Watergate investigation because they are a known liar and can't be believed. Of course you have to create a reality when you live with Blew Dress Bill.
  3. michael
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    michael - January 14, 2014 6:16 am
    Maybe you should try the high fiber Trollios cereal. Have your care-giver pick up a box.
  4. Richard
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    Richard - January 13, 2014 12:06 am
    For a country boy like me, they both can be used for the same purpose.
  5. Richard
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    Richard - January 12, 2014 5:04 pm
    The traditional CONSERVATIVE (and evangelical Christian) view of politics is the man runs for office and the woman tends to the (many) children and the household (her God given job). Your expressed views are really straying from the traditional conservative republican guidelines! Have you lost your GOP GPS? You could lose you "GOP club card" if Rick Santorum reads the Sentinel! LOL
  6. Carl Lyle
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    Carl Lyle - January 12, 2014 12:34 pm
    I think you 'get excited' every time tmm336 has a new article. You probably looked forward to the new Sear's catalog also.
  7. tmm336
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    tmm336 - January 12, 2014 4:49 am
    The glass ceiling in politics is self-imposed as the voters respond favorably to women. The problem of not enough women in the pipeline has several causes and needs several responses to address them.

    Policy Positions - “Binders full of women” is helpful in that it is a rolodex of identified individuals screened in some manner to reach out to for various positions. However, it is that type of narrow thinking that needs an adjustment.

    That’s is if the desire is to ↑ the representation of women.
  8. tmm336
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    tmm336 - January 12, 2014 4:35 am
    Topic chosen because I’d like to see a ↑ in establishment political leaders actively/deliberately seeking out women to run. Women face the same challenges as any candidate - getting name recognition, fundraising & overcoming the incumbency advantage. As family & friends we can encourage women as self-doubt is the major reason for not running. With younger women not seeing elected office as desirable option makes the challenge to ↑ the # of women who hold office more daunting. TM 
  9. Richard
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    Richard - January 12, 2014 12:48 am
    Great article, pay no attention to Zippy D Dudah! As you say, "Women supporting each other is important. Every time I see a woman running for office, I get excited. " Then 2016 should be a most exciting time for you with Hillary running and for Hillary with you there to support her! Don't forget to vote early and often!
  10. Zippy D Dudah
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    Zippy D Dudah - January 11, 2014 10:49 pm
    Running out of ideas for topics?
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