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Why Are There So Few Women in American Politics?

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Posted on Mar 10, 2014

  Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi believes negative political ads may keep women out of office. shawncalhoun (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi believes minimizing the “role of money in politics” and increasing “the level of civility in debate” will go a long way toward getting more women to run for office. But what’s money really got to do with it?

According to Pelosi, it’s not about women being able to raise the big bucks required for campaigns, but rather it’s the funding that goes toward discrediting candidates that creates a gender gap in politics.

The Atlantic:

Women make up less than 20 percent of Congress. Out of 100 senators, 20 are female; out of 435 representatives, there are 78 women. According to the World Economic Forum, that puts the United States at 60th in the world for political equality between the sexes, right behind countries like Sri Lanka, Serbia, and Senegal….

“Look, I’ve had $100 million spent mischaracterizing who I am,” [Pelosi said at The Atlantic’s Shriver Report summit on women and poverty in January]. “Women see that and they say, ‘I could never take that. I would never subject my family to any mischaracterizations about me.’”

Because of this, women who are leaders in other fields shy away from diving into the all-out battle of running for office….

Although reforming campaign finance rules might create more equal access to dirty campaigning tools, it seems unlikely that character assassinations would subside significantly. Pelosi does have a worthwhile point about culture, though: The circus of politics might be more alienating to women than to men, especially women with families. That this observation rings true says just as much about gender politics as it does about legislative politics: If campaigning is so harmful to families, men should be just as reluctant to get involved.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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