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Why More Women Don’t Run for Office (May 21, 2014)

By Jena McGregor
Washington Post

"The report was released by Political Parity, a nonpartisan organization working to increase the number of women in Congress and in the governor's mansion, with funding through former ambassador Swanee Hunt's grant-giving group Hunt Alternatives. The report combines both a quantitative survey of 171 female state legislators done by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, as well as interviews done by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) with 60 female candidates, officeholders and congressional staff members.

Currently, women make up 18.5 percent of House seats and 20 percent of U.S. Senate seats, and are the governors in five states. Yet one of the report's key takeaways is that the biggest barriers to running for national office are not family demands. Rather, they're fundraising requirements and party support. While women in the two studies cited the difficulty of work-life balance and being apart from family while in Washington or on the campaign trail, they ranked well below other obstacles to advancing their political careers.

Instead, women in the studies focused attention on the fundraising demands for national or statewide office and the lack of support they received from political parties. While just under 50 percent of the respondents said their parties encouraged male and female candidates equally, roughly 45 percent said they encouraged men more. Hardly any said women have the upper hand.

"There was a fair amount of finger pointing at the political party structure," says Heidi Hartmann, IWPR's president. "It is very, very difficult to get named. You kind of need to know that such and such a job will be coming up in four to five years and need to start positioning yourself early and start getting to know the party's power brokers. They're just much more likely to name men and think of men.""

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