Date of Completion

Spring 5-5-2017

Project Advisor(s)

Hettinger, Virginia; Sterling-Folker, Jennifer

University Scholar Major

Political Science


American Politics | Gender and Sexuality | Models and Methods | Politics and Social Change


What factors influence the likelihood that a woman runs for, wins, and holds political office across the country? Is it easier to explain why a woman runs in, than that she ultimately represents, a certain district? I compare a series of state-level and district-level independent variables and relate them to two different dependent variables: that a woman ran for a district seat, and that a woman represents a district. I explore what, and how much, political geography and contextual factors can explain. My preliminary findings show that it is easier to explain the probability that a woman runs, than that if she wins, and that cultural rather than institutional factors tend to be more statistically significant. I compare my findings to those of the past, and consider how they reflect the changing role of women and what they mean for the future of female political representation. The key to increasing female political representation may be encouraging more women to run by understanding the decision as a personal but also environmental one, combining “political ambition” and “political geography” approaches.