by Amy Reynolds
This past Saturday, Barbara Mikulski from Maryland became the longest-serving female congressperson in the history of the United States, having been elected to the Senate in 1986. She is currently one of 17 female senators (an all-time high for the United States). Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox suggest in Men Rule (a report released by American University) that the United States ranks 91st when it comes to the representation of women in national office.
One of the findings of Lawless and Fox is that part of the gender gap in political representation is connected to ambition. One of the seven variables affecting ambition is the lower encouragement women receive to run for office. They argue:
The 2011 gender gap in political ambition—based on a variety of measures—is roughly the same magnitude as it was in 2001. Women today remain just as unlikely, relative to men, as women ten years ago to consider running for office. . . . Because of deeply embedded patterns of gender roles and norms, becoming a candidate will remain a far less appeasing and feasible option for women than men, at least for the foreseeable future.
Such a finding seems to go hand in hand with a 2011 article from the American Journal of Sociology by David Cotter, Joan Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman that suggests gender role attitudes have not changed much since the turn of the century. Especially interesting to me was the report that only around 70% of respondents claimed that working mothers could have warm relationships with their children.