U.s. Politics And Elective Offices

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It is well known that there are fewer women serving in U.S. politics and elective offices than there are men. According to the 2010 census, women make up 50.8% of the population, yet in 2016 women comprise only 19.4% of Congress, 24.7% of statewide elective executive offices, and 24.5% of state legislatures (Howden and Meyer 2011; Center for the American Woman and Politics [CAWP] 2016). In fact, in the world ranking of women in national legislatures the United States comes in at number 95 out of 191 (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2016). Clearly there is a dearth of women serving in elected office, but it is not clear why this is the case. Several theories have been put forth to explain the underrepresentation of women in politics including…show more content…
Drawing on concepts from social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954), it is possible that when considering the possibility of running for office, potential female candidates make comparisons between themselves and women serving at higher levels of office. If these exemplars are very qualified, this may be one of the reasons potential female candidates believe they are not qualified enough to run. In other words, extremely well qualified women serving in office may actually deter potential female candidates from running. If this is indeed the case, it will mean that the approach to increasing the number of women in office may need to be revisited. It may not be sufficient or wise to simply rely on a few barrier breakers to serve as role models for potential candidates. The role may need to shift from exemplar/role model to mentor in order to encourage potential candidates with different kinds of qualifications to run. To gain an initial understanding of the possible comparisons those thinking of running for office make, two surveys were conducted, one of elected officials in Iowa and one of students at Iowa State University. The intent of the surveys was to gauge the political experience, interest, and ambition of the participants. I expected gender differences within each sample but not many differences between the samples in terms of desire to run for future office, position they would run for, comfort level engaging in various
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