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August 30 2018

Will Toxic Political Arena Influence Women to Pursue Careers Elsewhere?

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

We often talk about the impact women will have on our political systems – their potential to get more accomplished, tackle issues men may avoid, and simply bring fresh perspectives to our governing bodies. But we don’t often consider how our political system – and today’s political climate, in particular – may impact the supply of female candidates.

--Sabrina Schaeffer and Susannah Wellford at Real Clear Politics

Women are running for political office in record numbers this year.

We're often told that women must confront sexism in politics.

Writing in Real Clear Politics, Sabrina Schaeffer and Susannah Wellford propose that sexism, while not entirely eradicated, isn't hindering women from entering the political arena as candidates.

But something else may be making them think twice about becoming candidates: the viciousness and toxicity that now pervades the public arena.

Schaeffer and Wellford write:

The character of the modern campaign makes many women recoil from politics (not to mention many men). In 2013, Kristin Kanthak and Jonathan Woon from the University of Pittsburgh conducted a randomized controlled experiment, which concluded, “[E]lections themselves – rather than differences in ability or relative confidence – dissuade women from entering the fray.”

The “noisiness” of a modern political campaign simply makes communicating seem too arduous and unpleasant. It’s not that women candidates don’t have a thick skin or can’t hold their own in a debate – they certainly do. Rather, it’s the perception that any individual in politics can’t make their perspectives heard or significantly impact the conversation. And when there are so many other ways in which women believe they can be influential, well, politics too often falls off the to-do list.

It’s exciting to see so many women actively engaging in the political sphere this year. But it’s hard not to wonder how the intensified toxicity of our political culture – exacerbated by a 24-hour news cycle and social media – may affect women’s participation over the long term. It’s worrisome to think that there may be a backlash as women witness the challenge of female candidates trying to break through the noise and have their viewpoints heard.

The intense political heat, which may be driving more women to launch campaigns this year, has the potential to keep women after them from following suit. We should all want to improve our political climate so that we can have a more productive conversation about policy solutions to problems in health care, energy, education, foreign policy, and other areas.

And the fever pitch of political divisiveness may keep qualified female candidates from participating in fixing our collective problems – just when we need them most.

I urge you to read this thoughtful article.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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