As for explanation, the authors suggest that, with so few women making it to the upper rungs of government (just 17 percent of Congress is female), the threshold for skills and ambition might be higher for female legislators than for men. And once they're there, it's possible that they work harder. Politico quotes Rep. Judy Biggert as saying that she's always had "the drive to work two, three times harder than men" and cites the "self-doubt" many female lawmakers must overcome.
This self-doubt is evidenced by the persistent "self-starter gap" discussed in this DoubleX profile of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Whereas most men decide to run for office on their own, women tend to launch their campaigns only after being urged to run by an outside party:
Nancy Pelosi, for example, says she only ran after her then-dying predecessor, Sala Burton, begged her to. Sarah Palin's political career started when she was recruited as a twentysomething to try for a seat on the Wasilla City Council. Even Hillary Clinton says that the turning point in her decision to run for the U.S. Senate came when a young woman whispered "Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton, dare to compete," into her ear at a public event honoring girls' participation in sports.Gillibrand's story is refreshing in its diversion from this trend--she knew she wanted to run for office in elementary school. I wonder if there are age-group performance gaps similar to this study's gender findings (the research being controlled for experience/seniority, of course). If so, Gillibrand, as not just one of a minority of women in the Senate but as its youngest member, may be a new breed of underdog. She's working extra hard not to overcome her insecurities but to gain enough experience to compete with the best of best--many of the best being women.
This article available online at: