Women’s chances of election

Still the number of women in politics is quite low and the problem did not disappear. Therefore, scholars began to focus on the other aspects of the public life, which hamper the success of political career of women. The primary concern of the scholars shifted to the structural barriers, the most prominent among which was the incumbency advantage and the number of women in the “pipeline” professions, which are the starting point of the political career.

Through this structural barriers researchers tried to provide the explanation of the low level of the women representation on the office holding positions (Lawless & Pearson, 2006). Quite recently there appeared numerous works, which attribute underrepresentation of women in politics to the lower levels of political ambition. They say that the desire of women to win the political position is usually considerably lower than that of men.

On the one hand I can’t but agree that these three problems: cultural evolution, structural barriers, and political ambition, do make sense and for sure can be a valid explanation of the gender disparities in political sphere. On the other hand even all together these theories do not provide complete explanation and the low number of women in politics and moreover none of these theories try to reveal the real essence of the question of the women success in their pursue of congressional seats (Lawless & Pearson, 2006).

Numerous researches of the present-day congressional politics proved the fact that women do not typically face overt bias at the polls (Burrell 1998; Fox 2000; Seltzer, Newman and Leighton 1997; Thomas and Wilcox 1998). Thomas and Wilcox in their research of the political situation in 1990s made the following statement: “whereas women may once have lost their elections more often than their male counterparts, that is not the case today . . . When party and incumbency status are taken into account, the evidence is clear that women win races as often as men” (Thomas and Wilcox 1998, p.

3). Dolan studied numerous election results and public opinion polls. Based on their analysis she concluded that: “Levels of bias are low enough to no longer provide significant impediments to women’s chances of election” (Dolan, 2004, p. 50). One of the most studies of the political careers and opportunities of women was conducted by the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC). This was a very substantial research, which focused on the study of every significant party candidate in a general election from 1972 to 1992.

The research covered the study of different characteristics of the candidate such as his/her office, year of election, party affiliation, gender and race. The research presents the following numbers: women incumbents won 96 % of their races while this number for men was 95 % in House general elections; in open seat elections this correlation was 48 % against 51 %; finally, female challengers won 4 % while this number for male challengers constituted 6 %.

This study was very important due to the fact that it proved that women were not that successful in their political careers because they are not incumbents and not due to their sex (Newman, 1994). As the continuation of this idea we can see researches conducted by numerous scholars focusing on women in politics, which explain the low representation of women in the political life by the limits in political opportunities (Darcy and Choike 1986; Smith and Fox 2001; Thomas and Wilcox 1998).

One of the most prominent studies of the political careers and problems experienced by women was conducted by Carroll’s (1994) in her study of congressional, statewide, and state elections in 1976. She proved that the underrepresentation of women in electoral office is due to limitations in “political opportunity variables,” namely in incumbency advantages. This is an important aspect greatly due to the fact that incumbents fight for reelection in 75 % of congressional elections, and the reelection rates in this case is very high – usually 90 % or even more (Duerst-Lahti, 1998).