Women don’t get elected because they refuse to put their names on the ballot in the first place

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

There’s scant evidence that women don’t compete as hard as men, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing explains; however, there is sizable evidence that women, on average, don’t jump into competitions as easily as men do, and they don’t turn situations into explicit competitions as quickly as men do — which has political repercussions:

But surprisingly, study after study has shown that when women are on the ballot today, they win just as often as men do. They also raise just as much money in campaign donations. Generally speaking, Democrats vote for their party’s nominee, regardless of the nominee’s gender. The same goes for Republicans.


There’s an even more fundamental problem: women don’t get elected because they refuse to put their names on the ballot in the first place.


Analyzing the state representatives’ responses, Fulton concluded that ambitious male state legislators will run for Congress if they have any chance to win. Ambitious female legislators will run for Congress if they have a good chance to win.

The tipping point seems to be around 20% odds. When the odds of winning are below that, almost all the candidates will be men. When the odds of winning are better than that, women jump in the race. In fact, when the odds are decent, women will compete in the election even more than men will.


Incumbents win about 92–95% of the time, depending on the year. That figure doesn’t change much. Even 2010, considered a horrendous year for congressional incumbents, saw 100% of Republicans retain their seats and 82% of Democrats retain theirs.


When you look at other elected positions, where women have better odds, you see a different story. There are approximately 550,000 elected positions in the United States. (To put that number in perspective — there are 363,000 computer programmers.) The majority of those are for local government positions, perhaps a part-time city council or school board. The odds of winning in those races are much better. And so women hold a much higher percentage of posts — 44% of school board posts are held by women. Not quite parity, but much closer.


  1. Bruce Purcell says:

    Hillary’s “It’s Her turn!” election campaign was about what I’d expect from about half the female politicians out there once they can overrule any male advisers.

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