Keys to Elected Office

The Essential Guide for Women

Now updated with our 2016 and 2017 research, the Essential Guide is the compilation of nearly 20 years of research studying the complex attitudes toward women candidates. From calling out an opponent’s record to talking about your personal life to establishing qualifications, this no-nonsense pragmatic guide gives women candidates the tools they need to run for public office.

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.

Our Research

Modern Family

As more women run for office and are elected, voters question how women can serve constituents and take care of family responsibilities at the same time. Women candidates wonder whether they should talk about their families and personal lives and how to do so without alienating voters. Our findings take a comprehensive look at how voters judge a woman’s family life and provide strategies on how candidates can connect with voters in a genuine and relatable way.


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

Finding Gender in Election 2016

Gender played a starring role in the 2016 presidential election. Through Presidential Gender Watch, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and the Center for American Women and Politics tracked, analyzed, and illuminated the gender dynamics of the race. We came away with the key ways gender mattered (and continues to matter) in presidential politics.

Featured Research

Politics is Personal: Keys to Likeability and Electability for Women (2016)

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.

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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

She Should Run Incubator

The She Should Run Incubator is an online program designed to help more women envision themselves in public leadership, and a way of providing thoughtful guidance and support for women considering a future run. Unique among other traditional organizations that recruit specific women for specific seats, their goal is to expand the community of women considering public service as a leadership path.


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!