Women must be prepared before they publicly announce their plans to run for office. Showcasing executive leadership is critical. Women must underscore prior political experience with their history of professional accomplishments. Tying experience to accomplishments helps to establish qualifications—one of the hallmarks of electability.
Women candidates for major statewide office must come across as confident, qualified, and competent in their initial presentation. They also need to maintain that confidence, as it is critical to appearing qualified. Voters immediately hone in on perceived weaknesses, because women candidates have added visibility. Women cannot begin their campaigns looking anything but qualified and confident.
Voters punish women for on-the-job learning as a candidate and for campaigns that take time to ramp up; this erodes the sense that they are qualified. Women often start their campaigns with their personal stories and biographies, which makes them appear likeable and in touch—both important traits—but often does not do much to establish their qualifications and credibility.
So what’s the secret? The best way for a woman candidate to establish her qualifications is to weave her experience and professional accomplishments into her narrative. To help women relay their qualifications, they must focus on both the presentation and content of their introductions. It is important for women to lead with their issue expertise and accomplishments before sharing their personal stories.
Voters believe that most women running for major office in their states are hard-working, qualified, confident, organized, knowledgeable, compassionate, assertive, strong, and leaders. While these are all positive qualities, they do not all convey to voters that a candidate is qualified. The traits that well describe women who run for major statewide office and convey qualifications are confident, organized, and knowledgeable.
Women candidates must have these words written into their introductions and early descriptions, including their websites, announcements, mailers, and stump speeches.