One Easy Way to Get More Women into Office

Women in the United States have more rights and equality than women in most other countries, right? Doesn’t that sound like a reasonable statement?

Then how is it that the U.S. ranks 79th “in the world for women’s political representation”? And that is after last week’s elections, which brought the number of female Senators up from 17 to a whopping 20.

The underrepresentation of women in government matters. In the Huffington Post, Soraya Chemaly quotes Alexander Hamilton’s gem in the Federalist Papers that “all classes of citizens should be involved so that their feelings and interests be better understood.” If you’re not on the legislative floor, neither are your interests.

When more women are in government, their interests are not only better understood, they are also promoted. An American University study called “Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in Politics” summarized other studies’ findings that when women become legislators, they:

  • tend to enact “women’s health policies”
  • “are more likely than men to vote for reproductive rights legislation”
  • “are generally more active in sponsoring legislation with a focus on women’s interests”
  • “are more supportive of ‘women’s issues’”

It’s not hard to believe that specific policies would change if women claimed their fair share of political power. For instance, in a world where women were equal, “the school day just might match the work day and health care would cover contraception and Viagra,” said Christine Bronstein, founder of the women’s social network A Band of Wives,” quoted in BlogHer. (Thankfully, President Obama is taking care of the contraception part with the Affordable Care Act.)

But tectonic shifts like an alignment of the school and work days can happen only once women really do have an equal share of political power, not just some share. Tali Mendelberg and Christopher F. Karpowitz report in The New York Times their findings that “female lawmakers significantly reshape policies only when they have true parity with men.” As they observe, “we’ve got a very long way to go.”

Where are the Women?

Why are we 79th? Why don’t American state and federal legislatures have more female members?

It’s hard to pin the gender gap on the electorate. It is well-documented that “when women run for office, they perform just as well as their male counterparts.” There are no differences in their electoral success. The trouble is that women rarely do run for office.

The American University study found some differences between male and female potential candidates that account for the gap.

  • Women aren’t recruited to run for office. Politicians, mentors, advocacy groups, and others are more likely to prompt and encourage men than women to run for office.
  • Women believe the electoral process is biased against them.
  • Women believe they are not qualified to run for office, even when they have the same qualifications as men — or even better ones.
  • It is important to get to girls and women at early ages so they develop the “confidence, competitiveness, and ambition” that might spur them to run for office.

Many men have a substantial stake in increasing the number of women in government. Given female legislators’ tendency to advocate for the weaker and less fortunate, Mendelberg and Karpowitz conclude that “at a time of soaring inequality, electing vastly more women might be the best hope for addressing the needs of the 99 percent.”

Related Stories:

Women: The Key To The Future of Progressive Politics

How To Get Women Excited About Politics Again

4 Reasons Girls Don’t Care About Politics (And Why They Should)


Aud Nordby
Aud n5 years ago


Douglas Wallace
Douglas Wallace5 years ago

Ego and emotional stability to withstand the extreme scrutiny and vicious attack ads of the election process. "In the 6th grade Ms. Jansen, you stole Georgette's lunch money, didn't you ?? DIDN'T YOU ??

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

thank you.

Joseph G. Paquette

After the election 2012, I don't think finding women will be the problem.

Missy O.
Missy O5 years ago

I live in Norway a contry were I feel the whole woman/man thing has gone to far.. if a man and a woman apply for a job, if they apply for a typical gender dominating job, the one with the opisite gender gets extra points.. like if a man apply for a daycare job. me I think that is worng as I want the person with the best score and most expreience to get the job not the one with the right gender, race or age.. I want the best doc for my kids, the best people to run the country ect.. we have had both man and woman here we had a female prime minester, woman could vote in 1913. But I still see man and woman as dogs and cats, we are both humans but we have differnt strengts and weknesses.. some things man do better and the other way around... but we must respect our differences and embrace them so that we can be better at what we can do :)


Nirvana Jaganath
Nirvana Jaganath5 years ago


pam w.
pam w5 years ago

As long as our governmental bodies consist largely of old, white takes enormous courage (not to mention financial resources) to stand for office!

As women, we know our time is often strictly allocated to children, house & husband.

I'm so proud of the THIRTY women now in the Senate! I can remember when there were only TWO!

Soon....very, very soon.....there will be many more! There are more women voters than men....keep that in mind!

Desiree Ponton
Desiree P5 years ago

Ranked 79th? That’s surprising. It is good to see woman on the rise though. Improvements are underway. Stepping up into political roles must be very intimidating. It takes a special woman with not only intelligence but courage, heart and a strong will to step into that role. I hope to see more woman step up to the challenge of politics.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

The IMF have already shown them the easy way, which is their Swiss bank account for their European shopping sprees

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

What guarantee do we have that women getting elected will not become puppets of the IMF like the current batch that's already in office.
The women on the street who are not in office could do a lot more for the country by kicking their husbands in the butt when they see they are supporting the IMF instead of the people who are their neighbors and fellow countrymen and women. Putting yourselves on a pedestal never achieved anything. Its far better to be the person behind the curtain who dismantles that greatest threat to a nation which is a treasonous person and i see many in government just by what they don't do.