Lawless joined Brown’s political science department as an assistant professor this fall, after earning her doctorate at Stanford. Her dissertation looked at the reasons so few women enter politics.
BAM Why did you do this study?
Lawless We know there is no bias against women as candidates: in terms of fund-raising and votes, they fare at least as well as men. But women make up only 14 percent of Congress. Why are all these men throwing their hats into the ring while women are not?
Lawless We surveyed 3,700 people in professions most likely to lead to a political career: law, business, education, and political activism. Women were less likely to receive a suggestion to run for office. Politics is an old-boys club, and when recruiters look for a candidate, their instinct is probably to pick a man. Women were also less likely to deem themselves qualified to run. Men overestimated their qualifications; women underestimated them. Even young women were significantly less likely than young men to show interest.
BAM Did party affiliation matter?
Lawless Democratic women were more likely to consider a run. The Democratic Party is more likely to recruit women. Issue motivation didn’t seem to matter: women who were interested in women’s issues were no more likely to think about throwing in their hats.
BAM Were family duties a factor?
Lawless Women who thought about running were less likely to be married and to have children. Married women were nine times more likely than men to be responsible for the majority of household and child-care tasks, but that didn’t hold up as a deterrent to considering a run.
—Emily Gold Boutilier