Why you should care
We need more women in office. Here’s one way to make that happen.
For all the talk of leaning in, out, up and down, here’s one direction that women seeking a start in politics should think of leaning: straight into special elections.
In case you need a brushup on your Schoolhouse Rock and political definitions, a special election takes place if a political office turns up empty in between normally scheduled elections — often when the incumbent in office dies or resigns suddenly.
As it turns out, women have historically done better at picking up the pieces of these unfortunate circumstances — and they’re more likely to win in a special election than a regular one.
The folks at Smart Politics tell us that 24 percent of such U.S. House seat races went to female candidates since 1980, compared to 11 percent for regular elections.
The ladies have made more gains in office holdings in recent years, but it’s still fairly inconsistent. Seven of the winners ran for seats held by their late husbands, who died while in office.
But, then again, should American women be satisfied with slight bumps in extreme circumstance? If Iceland can vote in a single mom, and Rwanda more than half of an entire house of parliament, surely the U.S. can give women a better showing, too.
An American University study published last year argues that women simply don’t aspire to higher office in droves the way men do. Women, the study argues, are more likely to seek out charitable work than to enter politics. The study’s authors specifically call out how we raise our daughters. Subconsciously or not, boys are more likely to be guided toward sports, where they learn competitiveness, while girls learn about giving back through charity, not politics.
More women in national leadership roles can also mean more support for family and environmental issues (as studies have shown). Maybe it’s as simple as dressing a kindergärtner in a ”Georgette” Washington Halloween costume, switching the pronouns during bedtime readings of Duck for President, or just talking to kids about Virginia Foxx or the Sanchez sisters (Loretta and Linda).