Why don't more women run for political office? It might be that they just aren't all that interested.
Overall, women are less likely than their male counterparts to have considered running for office and to express interest in political candidacy in the future. In fact, 63 percent of women say they have never thought about running for political office as a career path, compared with 43 percent of men who have a similar lack of interest.
Instead, the research found, women would rather be their own boss and run their own business when given a choice for their career. Forty-four percent of women surveyed said they would want to own a business and 42 percent of women said they would choose to be a teacher. Just 8 percent said they would choose to be mayor of their town.
Similarly, women would also pass over being a member of Congress for a number of other careers. Women say they would rather be a business executive, lawyer or principal before becoming a member of Congress. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to want to be a business executive or member of Congress if given the choice.
"Given this persistent gender gap in political ambition, we are a long way from a political reality in which young women and men are equally likely to aspire to seek and hold elective office in the future," wrote study co-authors Jennifer Lawless, professor and director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University and Richard Fox of Loyola Marymount University. "Certainly, recruitment efforts by women’s organizations — nationally and on college campuses — can chip away at the gender imbalance in interest in running for office."
Researchers have a few ideas as to why women hold these feelings about political aspirations. Chief among them are the fact that men are more likely to have been socialized by their parents to think about other career paths, the research found. Additionally, it was found that men are more likely to believe they will be qualified to run for office in the future.
To that end, women were less likely to be encouraged to run for office by their mother and father. Women also say both their parents have told them they would rather they not go itno politics. Both parents also say they would rather their daughter goes into a different line of work than politics. However, researchers believe there are a few quick and easy steps that can be taken in order to improve the way women feel about political jobs.
"Encouraging parents, family members, teachers, and coaches to urge young women to think about a political career can mitigate the gender gap in ambition, too," the authors wrote. "And spurring young women to immerse themselves in competitive environments, such as organized sports, can go a long way in reinforcing the competitive spirit associated with interest in a future candidacy. But women’s underrepresentation in elective office is likely to extend well into the future."
The research was based on the responses of 2,100 college students, 1,020 of whom were men and 1,097 of whom were women. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 25.