Study: Family Not Major Influence on Women Seeking Office

Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 01:59 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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Family has little impact on a woman's decision to seek elected office, according to a Brookings Institution study.

The study's author, Jennifer Lawless, a Brookings senior fellow, cited how the announcement that Chelsea Clinton was pregnant spurred analysis whether it would affect the decision of her mother, Hillary Clinton, to run for president.

"As much fun as it might be for political junkies, pundits, and operatives to wonder whether and how a grandchild will factor into Clinton’s decision calculus, the truth of the matter is that it is highly unlikely to matter," Lawless wrote.

Instead, Lawless said women are significantly less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office from a party leader, elected official, or non-elected political activist. For example, 49 percent of the men in the sample report had someone suggest they run for office, compared to 39 percent of the women.

If Republicans are to elect more women to national office, the party needs to do more to ensure those candidates can overcome the challenge of making it through the primary process, Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, told Time magazine.

"Women’s representation is very lopsided on the Democratic side and the Republican Party has to do more if they want to see more women elected to office. They need to go out — the party itself, the state parties — need to make primaries a priority. The numbers of Republican women that are running, it’s not the numbers you need to see an increase in representation at congressional level," Walsh told the magazine.

Brookings' Lawless does not discount that family responsibilities are one of the many factors impacting the decision to enter the political fray, but, she writes, "it is also important to recognize that the perpetuation of traditional family arrangements can affect women’s career choices before they enter the candidate eligibility pool."

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