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Barbara Lee Family Foundation

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation is the only organization dedicated to specifically studying women running for executive office on both sides of the aisle. For nearly two decades, elected officials, candidates, practitioners, and press have used Barbara Lee Family Foundation research to better understand the obstacles and opportunities that women in politics encounter.

About Us

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation advances women’s equality and representation in American politics and in the field of contemporary art. Our work in both our program areas is guided by our core belief that women’s voices strengthen our democracy and enrich our culture.


The Foundation produces unique and original research highlighting the obstacles and opportunities women candidates encounter when running for leadership positions, particularly executive office.

Politics is Personal: Keys to Likeability and Electability for Women

American politics can sometimes feel like a popularity contest. Questions like, “Who would you like to have a beer with?” or “But does she smile enough?” are par for the course. Like it or not, likeability is a non-negotiable quality voters seek in women officeholders and candidates. At the same time, it’s an intangible quality. Voters have difficulty clearly defining what it means to come across as likeable. When it comes to articulating what attracts them to a candidate or officeholder, voters have an “I know it when I see it” mindset.

Featured Research

Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide for Women (2016)

For nearly 20 years, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation has studied every woman’s campaign for governor on both sides of the aisle, including real-time polling on voters’ views and post-election interviews with candidates and campaign staff. Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide for Women offers the most direct, must-know advice we’ve gleaned for women elected officials and candidates running for office. From the personal traits, to actions that convey qualification and likeability, to bouncing back from mistakes, this nonpartisan guide is a concise look at what it takes for a woman to run and succeed.

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The Foundation partners with other nonpartisan organizations dedicated to helping women succeed in American politics. The goal: to change the dialogue about what a leader looks like.

Featured Partner

The Higher Heights Leadership Fund

Higher Heights Leadership Fund is building a national civic engagement infrastructure and network to strengthen Black women’s leadership capacity. Higher Heights Leadership Fund is investing in a long-term strategy to expand and support Black women’s leadership pipeline at all levels and strengthen their civic participation beyond just Election Day.

Featured Program

Presidential Gender Watch 2016

Presidential Gender Watch 2016 is a nonpartisan project of the Center for American Women and Politics and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation to track, analyze, and illuminate gender dynamics in the 2016 presidential election. Presidential Gender Watch 2016 draws upon the research and expertise of both partner organizations, as well as other experts, to further public understanding of how gender the race for the nation’s highest executive office.


Follow the Foundation on social media for information about our latest research and analysis on the current state of women’s leadership in the United States. Join the conversation!

Adrienne Kimmell on Medium

Why Studying Likeability for Women in Politics is Important, Even Though It Hurts Me to My Feminist Core

Here is the unfortunate, sexist, unfair yet research-backed truth: Likeability matters more for women candidates and officeholders than it does for men in the same positions. Research shows that voters are willing to vote for a man they don’t like but think is qualified. But, voters are unwilling to extend the same courtesy to women candidates and officeholders. In other words, women still need to be likeable and qualified to be elected, while men only have to be qualified.