IOP To Release Report on Women in Politics

Increasing the number of women elected to state-level political offices is the focus of a report to be released by the Institute of Politics (IOP) this week.

The report is a product of an IOP student policy group examining the deficit of women in politics.

The researchers found that the states with the lowest percentages of women in their legislative bodies averaged about 10-15 percent female membership, while the states with the highest female representation had closer to 30-35 percent women.

“If you think about the view that women bring to the table and the fact that we make up about 50 percent of the population, that gap is quite large,” said Kristin E. Blagg ’08, one of the writers of the report and a co-chair of the policy group.

The researchers compared the six states with the highest number of women in their legislatures to the six with the fewest number of female legislators.

“We really wanted to see if things that the highest percentage are doing well are what the lowest percentage are doing badly,” said policy group co-chair Alyssa S. King ’08, another one of the report’s writers.

The researchers used the information they gathered to formulate suggestions for how local groups can help encourage women to run for office and increase their chances of being elected.

The report suggests that organizations connect women interested in running for office with others who have successfully been elected to political positions. In addition, the authors recommend providing frequent opportunities for politically-minded women to interact and build contacts.

The students also encourage organizations to ensure that they properly document the techniques they employed and whether they have found them to be successful.

“The more that there is an institutional memory and information for researchers to work from and other states to copy,” Blagg said, “the more we’ll be able to get women in office.”

Blagg and King began the policy group in the spring of 2006. The following fall, the group began to consider topics for a final report.

“We figured out that state legislatures are a really good test case because there are 50 different elective bodies and it really varies from state to state as to the percentage of women in each body,” Blagg said.

The report will be viewable on the IOP Web site beginning Wednesday.

—Staff writer Lauren D. Kiel can be reached at lkiel@fas.harvard.edu.