Why There Are So Few Women in Politics

March is National Women’s History Month in America, and during this month it is a good time to reflect on the current status of women in our government. As it stands, 106 of the 535 members of Congress are women in both the Senate and House of Representatives. That’s only a measly 19.8%. So what gives? Here’s a look at why there are so few women in politics at a time when women are legally just as able to be in government as their male counterparts.

As it turns out, women and men win elections at very similar rates. That is to say that when a woman runs for office, she is just as likely as a man to win the race. According to an article by NPR, a little bit over half of all Americans said they would vote for a well-qualified woman to be President. Since that article was released in 2016, that number has increased to almost 95% of Americans. The general idea of a woman in a leading government role has become more normal to people over the years, and at this point, nearly all Americans say they are comfortable with it. Yet still, women do not occupy nearly enough roles in the government, and therefore our governing body does not accurately reflect the population.

The problem isn’t that Americans won’t vote for a woman to be a Senator or Representative. In reality, the problem is that far fewer women run for office at all. American University ran a study on this to try and figure out just why women are less likely to run for office than men, and they came up with a few major reasons.

Primarily, women are more likely than men to view a race for a government position as highly competitive. This means they are more discouraged from the beginning, and more likely to believe they do not have a chance to win. The problem caused by this perception is compounded by the fact that women are more apt to believe that the electoral climate is biased against them. Women see a larger prejudice against them than men do; yet another factor stopping women from running for office.

Additionally, women are more likely than men to see themselves as underqualified for a position. A man and a women candidate with the same exact qualifications see themselves in dramatically different lights. A man is more likely to see himself as overqualified, yet a woman is much more likely to not even apply for the role (or in this case run for office) because of her negative perception of her own skill set and experience. This likely has to do with how competitive women tend to view electoral races, so again women are more discouraged from the very beginning of a race.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, women are much less likely than men to even get the suggestion to run in the first place – from anybody. Growing up, men constantly hear from teachers, parents, friends, and family that they will grow up to be powerful, important, or even President. Girls growing up are much less likely to have this notion drilled into them, and this affects women later in life. Women usually need to be talked into running for office and asked about it multiple times in order to even consider the idea. The influence of powerful role models on young girls is extremely important because a girl growing up without seeing women in positions of power will not be able to see herself in that position either.

The fight for equality in politics will not be an easy one or a quick one, but we can learn a lot from looking at women in politics today to see how we can further advance women in politics in the future. We need to encourage girls that they can be powerful political figures. It's time. 


Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!

About The Author

Julia Novello is a Journalism major at Boston University, with minors in Anthropology and Political Science. Her interests include animal activism, pop culture, binge watching Friends, politics, travelling, and everything to do with Tom Brady. She is a native of Boston, MA.