A Woman's Work Is Never Done? Fund-Raising Perception and Effort among Female State Legislative Candidates

Article excerpt

The lack of female politicians has been attributed to a lack of female candidates for office. However, the reason why there are so few female candidates is not clear. The author examines whether differences in fund-raising perceptions and effort between female and male state legislative candidates contribute to the lack of female candidates. The results indicate that women do tend to be more concerned about fund-raising, as is evidenced by greater effort devoted to this campaign function as compared to their male counterparts. Women use more techniques and rely on more sources to secure funds for their campaigns. This suggests that part of the reason women are reluctant to run for office may be due to the fact that they will have to devote more effort to a task candidates generally find distasteful.

Keywords: female candidates; state legislative elections; fund-raising

Despite research showing women are not at a competitive disadvantage when running for office or raising funds for such an endeavor, there still continues to be a dearth of women who do actually run for office. In fact, the number of women seeking office in state legislatures actually declined from 2,375 in 1992 to 2,220 in the 2004 election cycle (Center for American Women and Politics [CAWP] 2004a). The lack of qualified female candidates is of concern to many, as research has shown the presence (or absence) of women in legislative institutions has important implications for both descriptive and proscriptive representation. Part of the reason there are fewer female candidates is that women are less likely to think they are qualified to run or that they are going to win if they do run. This raises the question as to why women think this is the case.

Perhaps part of the answer is concerns about fundraising. Voters seem to believe female candidates will have greater difficulty securing funds for their campaigns (Ford 2002). Female candidates may feel the same way. Ironically, the emergence of women's political action committees (PACs) that stress the importance of early money may reinforce these fears (that female candidates need yeast to make dough rise whereas male candidates do not). Thus, it may be that women are more concerned about their ability to gain adequate financial backing to mount a successful campaign than are men. Such concerns may also lead women to organize their campaigns differently, with women casting a wider fund-raising net. Thus, while women may be just as (or more) successful than men when it comes to the amount of funds they raise, they may have to devote more effort to reach this parity. Several questions are suggested by this line of thought. First, are women more concerned about their ability to fund-raise? Second, do such concerns translate into the utilization of more fundraising techniques? Finally, do female candidates rely on more sources for raising campaign funds?

This article examines these questions by comparing male and female state legislative candidates' perceptions about and effort devoted to fund-raising. Surveys of state legislative candidates from nine states in the 1996 election cycle are utilized to examine the extent to which women are more concerned about their ability to raise funds. Additionally, this analysis examines whether male and female candidates rate the importance of various fund-raising techniques and sources differently. In general, the analyses show that women do tend to be more concerned than men about fund-raising, although the differences are not statistically significant. Additionally, women are more likely to rate as important more fundraising techniques and sources in their campaign. This suggests that while women raise as much money as men in state legislative campaigns, they must worker harder to achieve this parity, relying on more techniques and hitting up more people and groups for money. Potential female candidates may be aware of these differences, contributing to their reluctance to run for office and thus to gender imbalances in the number of candidates for legislative office and, ultimately, legislators. …