Jennifer Lawless is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy. She specializes in women and politics, public opinion, and statistics. Her current research focuses on political ambition and the manner in which gender affects the decision to run for office. She is the author of articles that have appeared or are forthcoming in American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Women and Politics. Co-author (with Richard L. Fox) of It Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office (Cambridge University Press, 2005.)
Jennifer Lawless graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a B.A. in political science. She went on to receive an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. A nationally recognized expert on women's involvement in politics, she is co-author (with Richard L. Fox) of the book, It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. She has also published articles in various political science journals and has issued a policy report on the barriers that oftentimes preclude Americans from running for office.
Jennifer’s first book, It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office, serves as the first systematic, nationwide empirical account of the manner in which gender affects political ambition. Based on data from the Citizen Political Ambition Study, a national survey she conducted of almost 3,800 "potential candidates," she found that women, even in the highest tiers of professional accomplishment, are substantially less likely than men to demonstrate ambition to seek elected office. Women are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. They are less likely than men to think they are "qualified" to run for office. And they are less likely than men to express a willingness to run for office in the future. This gender gap in political ambition persists across generations. Despite cultural evolution and society's changing attitudes toward women in politics, running for public office remains a much less attractive and feasible endeavor for women than men.
In addition to continuing research on gender and political ambition, I am also turning to early socialization's effects on considering a candidacy later in life. Unlike other research on youth political behavior, I turn specifically to the question of political ambition and future interest in office holding. The successful completion of this project will represent the first, in-depth national examination of youth political ambition. By carrying out a national survey of high school and college students, I will provide critical information to help guide policymakers and organizations dedicated to improving civic life, bolstering civic engagement, and broadening the political system's inclusiveness. Further, the results will illuminate the experiences and interventions necessary to foster a sense of political interest and responsibility in young citizens. The results will represent a significant step in understanding who will run for office, as well as gauging prospects for citizens' fuller inclusion in U.S. politics.