Electing Women to Public Office

View Segments Segment :

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Help
  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Help
Successfully saved clip
Find all your clips in My Lists
Failed to save clip
  • Transcript
  • Transcript

    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:11

      TRACY OSBORN: Hi.My name is Tracy Osborn and I'm an Associate Professorof Political Science at the University of Iowa.Today I'm going to be talking a bit about electing womento public office.Now overall, I'm going to talk about three topics today.First I'm going to give you a little backgroundand talk about why women aren't as involved in politicsin the US as men are.

    • 00:32

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: So I'll show you some numbers of women in Congress,talk about women in the state legislatures,and even women in other countries.We'll look at these to get a feel for the problemof electing women.Second, I'm going to talk about whywe have such paltry numbers of womenin public office in the US.The biggest reason is that women do not run at the same rates

    • 00:52

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: as men do.So I'll break down the reasons why this is the case.Finally, I'm going to talk about whyit's really important to overcomethis problem of getting women into public office.There are actually three reasons I'mgoing to talk about, democratic legitimacy, public policy.And the law-making process.We'll talk about each of these goals in turn.

    • 01:19

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: So let's start by talking about some background of womenin public office in the US.Here in the 114th Congress-- that'sthe congress for 2015-2016-- we have 104 women.You may even remember in the newsthis being a huge deal when therewas over 100 women in Congress.This is almost exactly 20% of the 535

    • 01:41

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: seats in the House and Senate.Now the Senate has 20 women-- that'sexactly 20% of the Senate-- and the Househas a little bit over 19%, which works out to 84 women.Congress.In Congress, the numbers have actuallyclimbed a little bit over the years very steadily,so they've never had a moment where they actuallywent down in the number of women in Congress.

    • 02:03

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: Now there were some dramatic increases, for instance,the Year of the Woman in 1992, but over time it's justbeen a very gradual increase.In the state legislatures, the storyis a little bit different.Right now 24.3% of legislators are women.Within this overall percentage, however, thereare some interesting hidden trends.

    • 02:24

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: One of those trends is that that percentage, 24.3,has been about the same for the last 15 years.In other words, it's stagnated.So it was going up for quite a while,but now it's kind of stuck at this 20% to 25% mark.Why is this the case when Congress, we'veseen it go up steadily over time?Another interesting observation about these numbers

    • 02:46

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: is that this is an overall take, the 24.3%,but it really differs among states.Some states have a lot of women in their state legislatures.For instance, Vermont is 41% women.Washington, Colorado, Arizona, theseare states that consistently have a lot of womenin their legislature.On the other hand, we have some statesthat are sort of consistently at the bottom.

    • 03:09

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: Oklahoma, Louisiana, and South Carolinaare examples of those states.Currently Louisiana has the fewest women with only 12%.So that 24.3% actually masks that huge variety.Now both of these trends, in Congress and in the statelegislatures, tell us that there'ssome mix of factors that's not driving women into office

    • 03:31

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: at the same rate as men.This is pretty disturbing when youthink about where the US ranks internationallyin the number of women in their legislature.So considering the national legislature and the lower houseof that national legislature-- that'sour House of Representatives-- werank 71st in the number of women in our lower

    • 03:51

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: house of parliament, in that lower house.This actually puts us behind most of Europe,including a lot of countries that wetend to think of as the countries that compare to us,such as the UK.It also puts us behind much of Africaand much of South America.Interestingly, this even puts us behind placeslike Iraq and Afghanistan in the percentage

    • 04:13

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: of women in our legislature.You can also see one more interesting trendin the percentage of women if youtake a look at the graph of women state legislatorsin the US over time.What you might notice is that it usedto be evenly Republican and Democrat.But over time it's become much more Democratic.

    • 04:34

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: This means that our political parties in the UShave differing problems in gettingwomen elected to office.It's a bit easier for Democrats than for Republicansto elect women.And this is a special problem of representation,if you think about getting a different mix of womeninto office.

    • 04:58

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: So this begs the question, if there are sofew women in office, why?Well, the biggest reason why is that fewer womenrun compared to men.So what I'm going to do now is tell youa bit about the research that's figured outwhy this is the case.Why do so few women run for office?So a good way to think about thisis to think about what I like to call push and pull factors.

    • 05:21

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: On the push side, there are factorswhere candidates have to kind of push themselvesinto public office.They have to decide that they want to run.Well, there are differences in howwomen and men perceive the opportunity to run for office.On the other side, we have pull factors,where different groups of people actually pull candidatesin and try to get them to run.

    • 05:43

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: These factors work differently for women and men as well.If you combine the push and the pull factors,then you start to understand why women run at different rates.So let's talk about the push factor first.Two researchers, Lawless and Fox,call this problem the political ambition problem.This is a problem where women and men who

    • 06:04

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: are equally qualified for office, who maybe comefrom a group of, let's say, lawyers or businesspeople,who consistently would be the people whothink about running for office.If you look at the backgrounds of those women and those men,they're really similar.They have lots of experience in the community, the same kindof education, so their backgrounds objectively

    • 06:25

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: are really equal.Yet when you ask them, would you thinkabout running for public office, women consistentlyare less likely to think about running for public officethan men.And if you ask them why, they'll saythey don't think their qualificationsare good enough to qualify them for public office at a higherrate than men do.So in other words, they look at those qualifications,

    • 06:47

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: equal to men's, but see themselves as lessqualified to run for public office.There's also some other evidence that perception reallymakes a difference.So for instance, women are more worried about someof the factors that come along with running for public officethan men are.For instance, they express more worryabout raising money, which is a huge part of running

    • 07:07

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: for modern public office.They also expressed concern about whatit might do to their family.Now that's the push factor, right?That tells you that women are actuallyless likely to be the ones that are goingto jump in the ring because of those perception problemswith ambition.The pull factor is something we think of as recruitment.

    • 07:27

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: There's a lot of public offices in the United States,and the political parties work reallyhard to get quality candidates into those offices.So what they do is they look aroundand they try to figure out who's the bestcandidate they can run.This is the recruitment process.Well, for many of those offices, the peopledoing the recruitment are men.And they look around and they try to find,

    • 07:49

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: from their kind of community groups or their businessgroups, who might make the best candidate.Well, when they do that, those circlesare less likely to have women in them.So sort of unconsciously, they'reactually not picking women.They don't mean to do it, necessarily.But they're looking around in those closed circles,and those closed circles tend to be more men,and therefore we have more male candidates.

    • 08:11

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: Sometimes, though, it is actually conscious,because we also have a process called gate-keeping whererecruiters try to keep certain candidates out of officebecause they don't think they can hack it.We know that gate-keeping affectswomen a little bit more, and that somebody might look aroundand they might say, OK, we need a candidate for this seat.Do you think a woman could run here?

    • 08:33

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: That's not a question you're goingto get about a male candidate.And so if you think about that recruitment factor mixedwith that push factor of political ambition,these two together really explainwhy there are so few women who run for office.If women don't think their qualifications are good enoughand they're not being recruited, then

    • 08:53

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: there's sort of a double barrier to getting them into office.|nterestingly, most evidence that political scientists dohave shows that when women do decide to be candidatesand they do decide to run, they win at equal rates to men.So the problem is not that voters won'tvote for women candidates.It's getting women to be those candidates in the first place.

    • 09:21

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: So why is this important?There are three factors that makeelecting more women to public office really important.The first reason is something I'mcalling democratic legitimacy.This is kind of a big thought idea.If you think about the place of the USand the US government in the world,often Americans like to think of howthey are spreading their democratic values

    • 09:43

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: to other countries.Now we're not a true democracy, right?We don't send everybody to the meeting all the time.Rather, we send representatives to Washington.So we're what we like to call "little r" republicangovernment, a representative government.But if only 20% of our representatives are women,are we really a democratic representative government?

    • 10:04

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: And if you think about that as we'regoing to write other constitutions,we actually require, in places like Iraq,that they elect 25% women, yet that'ssomething we don't do here.We only have 20% percent women in our Congress.And so it's a matter of democratic legitimacyto make our legislature look more like the peopleit represents.

    • 10:25

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: The second reason it's important to elect women to officeis because women make different kinds of public policy.Now this sounds really simple, but it's actuallya bit more complicated.What we know is that women experiencedifferent things in society.They're expected to do different things, like be caregivers,because a lot of times they're caring for children.

    • 10:45

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: So they have different issues relatedto those societal experiences.Now when they come to public office,they can do several things with those issues.They can emphasize those issues intheir legislative priorities.When they get up and do a speech on the floor,they can actually say, you know, as a woman,I had to go through this health screening.

    • 11:07

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: Or, as a woman who has to have a child,they have a different experience to bring to the floor.So when they make public policy, they'regoing to do it in a different way than men would do.The third reason that it's important to elect womento public office is that they actuallymake policy differently.So this is a little bit different than the contentof the policy that I just talked about.

    • 11:29

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: Women may make different types of policies,but they may actually make any policy in a different way.We have some evidence that women like to run meetingsin a different style, that when they run the meeting,they like to make sure everybody gets a chance to talk.They like to be educative and make sure that everyone reallyunderstands the points of the debate before they move on.

    • 11:52

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: This can lead to less zero sum decision making,in other words, decisions where one person wins everythingand one person wins nothing.You might be more compromising when yourun a meeting in that style.So if you elect more women to office,the actual process of lawmaking might become more consensual.

    • 12:15

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: In conclusion, we've talked todayabout why it's really important to getmore women into public office in the United States.Overcoming those push and pull factorsto get more women to be candidates for officeis really the key.And those three factors, democratic legitimacy,public policy, and the making of laws

    • 12:35

      TRACY OSBORN [continued]: are the real reasons why it's important to get womeninto public office.

Electing Women to Public Office

View Segments Segment :


Professor Tracy Osborn explains the state of women in politics and identifies key trends in the election of women to political office. She discusses the push and pull factors that may bar women from becoming candidates. She also covers why it is important to elect women to political office.

SAGE Video Tutorials
Electing Women to Public Office

Professor Tracy Osborn explains the state of women in politics and identifies key trends in the election of women to political office. She discusses the push and pull factors that may bar women from becoming candidates. She also covers why it is important to elect women to political office.

Back to Top