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Women in Congress: Current State and Role of Partisanship


According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which unites the parliaments of many countries (the US Congress is not part of it), before the midterm elections, America ranked 104th out of 193 countries in terms of the number of women in the lower house of the legislature. After the record for the number of women winning congressional elections, the United States is only in 70th place, behind, for example, Uganda, Timor Leste, Zimbabwe, or Iraq. The small number of women in the American Congress looks even more depressing in a historical context. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University (CAWP), before Tuesday’s midterm elections, only 322 women sat in Congress in the country’s history (208 from the Democratic Party and 114 from the Republican) (Rhinehart). In general, women have made progress in many ways in contrast to Donald Trump’s presidency. The way Trump treated women and his statements on several occasions led to public scandals and resulted in protests and increased political activity.

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A series of polls were conducted among women and men to understand what attracts people to political careers. The study found that women often underestimate their talents and skills. In the two main parties in the United States – Republican and Democratic – women are represented differently. Of the 118 women elected to Congress in the midterm elections, 100 represent the Democratic Party. Approximately the same picture was observed among the candidates in the polls (Kitchens). Studies show that Republican women are hindered by the current polarization of political discourse, as they are more moderate than their male counterparts. In addition, according to the Center for Responsible Politics, the funding that local Democratic Party chapters managed to secure to help their candidates was double that of female Republican candidates.

Experts also note that women MPs face obstacles not only during elections. Fumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Director of the UN Women Program, points to the experience of Diane Abbott, a member of the British Parliament. In the first half of 2017, she received several thousand threatening letters because she is a woman. Thus, the lack of safety for women in politics still represents a significant concern.

Running for the Democratic presidency most probably faces similar issues. In addition, concerning fundraising, female representatives also here are overperformed by male challengers. It has been reported that women entering politics happen to spend more money compared to men (Kitchens). This happens due to a more limited network of contributors as individual donors play a considerable role in fundraising. The gender difference in this sense is reinforced at the very early stage of elections.

Gender gap and women’s right to vote

Just over half of the US population is women, and they received the right to vote and the right to be elected in 1919. After fifty-six petitions for state assemblies, five hundred appeals to prominent political figures, two hundred and seventy testimonies before party commissions, thirty appeals to national conventions, and nineteen campaigns against the Federal Congress, feminists have finally triumphed (Rhinehart). However, although restricting access to polls based on gender was made unconstitutional in 1920, women did not participate in polls in the same numbers as men until 1980. From 1980 to the present, women have voted in elections with at least the same percentage as men. There are men and often more. This difference in voter turnout and preference between men and women is known as the gender voting gap (Rhinehart). The gender voting gap has influenced political elections and, therefore, how candidates campaign for their positions.

A massive problem for widening the gender gap is also the lack of not only male support but also often female support. Misogyny still accompanies the political life of the old and is based on the assumption that women are less competent and less stress-resistant. Many voters answer that they consider the female candidate incapable of maintaining national interests and leading the country in a military conflict. Conservative women also tend to prefer a man as their head of state (Rhinehart). This may be due to a psychological subconscious fear of facing male disapproval and a more excellent disposition to prefer stability, which can be violated under the president of a woman. All of this dramatically undermines the success of the feminine candidate.

Recruiting female candidates to run for Congress

As a recruiter for Congress, I would write the job description the same as for a man in terms of content. I am deeply convinced that genders can cope with tasks equally well. However, it is essential to pay attention to the biological sex of the candidate and their social roles. Ideally, making maternity leave equally available is critical to equalizing employment rights for both men and women. This practice has long been common in the Scandinavian countries, where women hold the highest government positions and dinner.

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On the other hand, it is essential to consider the strengths of women candidates, namely their ability to appeal to the interests and rights of the majority of the American population, women. It is necessary to include in the political agenda acute social problems related to the gender gap in the early spheres of life and the pressing issues of ordinary American women – mothers, spouses, etc. However, if a candidate for Congress is a woman, this does not mean that her vocation is to support only traditionally female interests. Therefore, the plan mentioned above should be part of the general social content of the job description. In this sense, the most winning strategy for a woman candidate is to make a vocal point on common issues. Such a position can also be advantageous to gain support from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Works Cited

Rhinehart, Sarina, and Michael H. Crespin. “Women in Congress.” New Directions in Congressional Politics. Routledge, 2020. 67-86.

Kitchens, Karin E., and Michele L. Swers. “Why aren’t there more republican women in Congress? Gender, Partisanship, and Fundraising Support in the 2010 and 2012 Elections.” Politics & Gender 12.4 (2016): 648-676.

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