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Encouragement is not Enough: Addressing Social and Structural Barriers to Female Recruitment

  • Kelly Dittmar (a1)

Invite a woman to run for office. Based on findings that women are most responsive to and reliant on encouragement in making the decision to run for office, this invitation refrain is pervasive among those seeking greater gender parity in U.S. politics. For example, in 2007, the Women's Campaign Fund launched She Should Run, complete with an online tool that, to date, has been used to ask just under 200,000 women to run for office. In 2014, another organization, Vote Run Lead, adopted a similar strategy, launching Invitation Nation to send e-invitations to run to nearly 10,000 women within their first year of launching the project. My own organization, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), has “invited” countless women to run for office through online communications, training programs, and recruitment campaigns and initiatives. While each of these organizations has also sought to provide potential women candidates with training, information, and resources to assist them throughout the recruitment process, our obsession with inviting can constrain a more complex and comprehensive approach to female candidate recruitment in both research and practice.

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Susan J. Carroll , and Kira Sanbonmatsu . 2013. More Women Can Run: Gender and Pathways to the State Legislatures. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mary Hawkesworth . 2003. “Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender: Toward a Theory of Raced-Gendered Institutions.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 529–50.

Jennifer Lawless , and Richard L. Fox . 2010. It Still Takes a Candidate. New York: Cambridge University Press.

David Niven . 2006. “Throwing Your Hat Out of the Ring: Negative Recruitment and the Gender Imbalance in State Legislative Candidacy.” Politics & Gender 2 (4): 473–89.

Kira Sanbonmatsu . 2006. Where Women Run: Gender and Party in the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Becki Scola . 2006. “Women of Color in State Legislatures: Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Legislative Office Holding.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 28 (3/4): 4370.

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Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
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