Which members of your state legislature are more likely to have young children – men or women?
A 2008 study by the Center for American Women and Politics found that only 3% of women state representatives had children under 6, compared to 8% of men state representatives. Similarly, 14% of women representatives had children under 18, compared to 22% of men.
Women representatives were also more likely than their male colleagues to rank “my children being old enough” as an important factor in their decision to run for office. More than half of women state representatives – 57% - rated that as “very important” compared to 42% of men representatives.
The report finds:
Other women legislators we interviewed spoke of the challenges women with
young children face with voters—as well as with their colleagues. Cultural
questions remain about the acceptability of women combining politics with
a young family. For example, one woman legislator we interviewed, who is
a parent, was asked by a voter, “Can you handle all [of] this?”—a question
probably much more frequently asked of female than male candidates.
Another legislator observed: “You would never find a woman with children
on her campaign sign. Unfortunately, the assumption would be that she is
too busy, [that] she would not be able to meet the demands professionally.”
Another issue is travel to the legislature. One legislator explained that “there
is still a stigma for a woman to leave on Monday and come back and be with
her family on Friday.”
You can read the full report here.
Assignment: Look up the members of your state legislature. Do you know which representatives are parents? Does it ever come up during campaign cycles or in response to their legislating?