Women Have Less Political Ambition Than Men. So?
From the executive summary of the article "Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics," by Jennifer L. Lawless (American University) and Richard L. Fox (Loyola Marymount University):
"Study after study finds that, when women run for office, they perform just as well as their male counterparts. No differences emerge in women and men’s fundraising receipts, vote totals, or electoral success. Yet women remain severely under-represented in U.S. political institutions (see top chart above). We argue that the fundamental reason for women’s under-representation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition; men tend to have it, and women don’t.
We arrive at this conclusion by analyzing data from a brand new survey of nearly 4,000 male and female “potential candidates” – lawyers, business leaders, educators, and political activists, all of whom are well-situated to pursue a political candidacy – and comparing our results to a survey we conducted in 2001. Despite the emergence over the past ten years of high-profile women in politics, such as Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin, we find that the gender gap in political ambition is virtually the same as it was a decade ago (see middle chart above). The gender gap in interest in a future candidacy has actually increased (see bottom chart above)."
Up to this point, the study seems to take an unbiased, gender-neutral, scientific approach by pointing out that female under-representation in holding political office is not because women are discriminated against once they decide to run for office, but rather that there are significant gender differences in terms of political ambition to run for office in the first place. In that case, isn't it possible that those gender differences and "political gender gap" might be innate and/or acceptable? Well, not if perfect statistical gender parity for holding political offices is the goal, and that's what the authors seem to be suggesting is the ideal outcome. For example, here's the concluding paragraph:
"Concerns about democratic legitimacy and political accountability necessitate that we continue to examine and work to ameliorate gender disparities in office holding. The large gender gap in political ambition we identify, coupled with the stagnation in the number of women serving in elected offices in the last decade, makes the road ahead look quite daunting. Indeed, many barriers to women’s interest in running for office can be overcome only with major cultural and political changes. But in the meantime, our results suggest that recruiting female candidates and disseminating information about the electoral environment and women’s successes can help narrow the gender gap and increase women’s numeric representation. The challenges in front of us are to continue to raise awareness about the barriers women face, and to continue to advocate for a more inclusive electoral process."
MP: Like most gender differences in outcomes, there only ever seems to be concern when women are under-represented in fields like politics, and never any concern when men are under-represented for outcomes like bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctor's degrees, graduate school enrollment, biology degrees, veterinary degrees, optometry degrees, pharmacy degrees, etc. The only exceptions are when the outcomes are negative like prison populations, learning disabilities, occupational injuries and fatalities, motorcycle injuries and fatalities, suicides and drug addiction and then there is no concern about female under-representation.