It’s tough to be a woman politician in America. There’s a few reason for it. This is going to be a two to three part series on why women have a much more difficult time in politics:
The first is gender norms. When you think of what a woman or a girl should be, you tend to think of a woman as kind, gentle, and passive. Girls are socialized from a young as to be feminine. We should play with dolls, do ballet, and wear everything that is pink. We are taught to accept things and not to be put up a fight (or else we’re being bad). This is somewhat of how we think women should be in the public sphere. A woman should stay at home and should be passive next to males (or risk being a bitch). However, we consider leaders to be assertive, authoritative, and headstrong. Women who try to be leader reach this dichotomy: either break gender norms and be a leader (and be ridiculed in the process being labeled a bitch) or choose not to get involved in politics and follow established norms.
A poll from the National Journal surveyed members of Congress on whether or not they believe that it is harder for women in politics. 81% of Democrats (out of 90 votes) believe it is harder to be a woman in politics. When asked why they believed such some congress members were cited as saying:
“Depends on which office she is running for. It’s usually a challenge for women to break into power-broker networks to raise money.”
“Old prejudices die very hard.”
“It’s still, ‘You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.’ Very few strong assertive females are treated the same as their male counterparts. They are labeled if they are outspoken.”
3% of Democrats surveyed believe it is easier to be a woman in politics and 16% of Democrats surveyed believe there is no difference in difficulty between men and women.
In that same poll, 44% of Republicans (out of 80 votes) believe it is harder to be a woman in politics. When asked why they believed such, some members were quoted saying:
“More to prove, and women usually get a later start or derailed because of kids and family.”
“It’s still a man’s world generally in politics at all levels for a variety of reasons, including women having more family responsibilities than men and conservative women less likely to run, and tradition. However, the world is changing, and if Hillary runs in 2016 and wins, that could change the paradigm.”
“The times they are a-changin’ but it takes time. It’s harder for GOP women than Dem women.”
25% of Republicans surveyed believe it is easier to be a woman in politics and 31% of Republicans surveyed believe there is no difference in difficulty between men and women.
While there are great differences in how each party views women in politics, still a majority of each party sees and recognizes the difficulties women in our political system face.
A 2010 study by Loyola Marymount University surveys women and how they view themselves as qualified when deciding to run for political office. Of the men and women surveyed, 33% of women and 35% of men had conducted extensive policy research; 65% of women and 69% of men regularly engaged in public speaking; and 69% of women and 64% of men had fundraising experience. So the men and women who were surveyed were relatively equal in the experience they have. Despite the equality in experience, women were found to be substantially less likely than men to see themselves as qualified to run for office. Women were found to be 29% less likely than men to see themselves as highly qualified and were 80% more likely to consider themselves not qualified at all. Women also have a stronger sense of the inequality that women politicians face: 78% of women believe it is more difficult to be a woman in politics compared to 57% of men believing the same.
Let me know what you think of these statistics and keep a look out for the next parts in this series!