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Despite an electoral system that appears to present excellent opportunities for women to win elective office, the number of women candidates remains low. While the initial decision to run for office is critical in understanding women's continued under-representation in elective office, very little research explores this subject. To examine the manner in which gender affects the decision to seek an elective position, we investigated how men and women in the "pool of eligible candidates" in New York State perceived running for office. Two central findings emerged from our data. First, contrary to findings in previous research, women and men in our sample expressed roughly equal levels of political ambition and viewed the campaign environment similarly. Our second central finding, however, is that important gender differences emerged in the factors that contributed to the decision to run. In other words, women considered many more factors when thinking about running for office, whereas men of all types felt more freedom to launch a candidacy. These findings tend to reinforce the notion that broad patterns of sex-role socialization continue to impede women from full inclusion in the electoral process.
Fox, Richard L., et al. “Gender and the Decision to Run for Office.” Legislative Studies Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 3, 2001, pp. 411–435.