The Missing Majority: The Recruitment of Women as State Legislative Candidates

The Missing Majority: The Recruitment of Women as State Legislative Candidates

The Missing Majority: The Recruitment of Women as State Legislative Candidates

The Missing Majority: The Recruitment of Women as State Legislative Candidates

Synopsis

In America, women are the clear majority of the electorate and the clear minority of elected officials overall. Niven finds that one important reason women hold a minority of state legislative seats is that party leaders are biased against women. This bias, rooted in the outgroup effect, encourages the predominantly male party leadership to prefer candidates in their own image while they discount the merits of potential women candidates. This book addresses this issue and offers suggestions for change.

Excerpt

The image of male leadership as right and proper, and the concomitant image of women as either inadequate or simply incongruent with political power, has been predominant in American political culture. From one of the most respected pieces of research in all of political science scholarship, Converse's belief systems paper (1964), comes this conclusion regarding women's political aptitude:

Now there is one type of relationship in which there is overwhelming evidence for vigorous opinion-leading where politics is concerned in our society. It is the relationship within the family: The wife is very likely to follow her husband's opinions, however imperfectly she may have absorbed their justifications at a more complex level. (233)

The uncomfortabilty with women who are politically active is the subject of a character's comments in John Steinbeck Cannery Row (1945, 200, 204):

"Well," said the captain, "since my wife went into politics, I'm just running crazy. She got elected to the Assembly for this district and when the Legislature isn't in session, she's off making speeches. And when she's home she's studying all the time and writing bills. . . . My wife is a wonderful woman," he said in a kind of peroration. "Most wonderful woman. Ought to of been a man. If she was I wouldn' of married her." He laughed a long time over that and repeated it three or four times and resolved to remember it so he could tell it to a lot of other people.

From the Pulitzer prizewinning account of the 1960 Presidential race, White (1961) The Making of the President 1960, the essence of the relationship between gender and politics is summed up in one sentence, "The root question of American politics is always: Who's the Man to See?" (1936).

These are vignettes from decades ago; surely our society has evolved to become more accepting of women in politics. While that may be true, one does not need to look very hard to find contemporary examples suggesting that politics remains an uneven playing field for men and women.

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