The personal is political. Voters continue to judge women on their families and personal lives. We’ve found that this woman candidate appeals to voters: a well-educated, married, 55-year-old with previous experience in office. However, women without this profile can still be successful.
More than 50 percent of American households no longer look like the family from a 1950s sitcom, according to a report on 2010 census data. For the first time since the Census Bureau began tracking this data in 1940, heterosexual married couples with children make up less than half of all American households.
While being a mother is appealing to voters, it also reinforces gender stereotypes. Voters express anxiety about a woman’s job in office taking a backseat to her role at home and wonder who is taking care of the children, if they are young.
So how do women candidates reconcile these facts with the reality of their own lives?
Women have the opportunity to be 360-degree candidates, using all of their expertise, background, and personal experiences to connect with voters. Managing a family— whether that includes a partner, children, parents, siblings, or any combination thereof—is certainly a facet of that full-life experience.
According to interviews with candidates, their staff, media consultants, and other political players, embracing one’s family as part of the campaign can reveal a positive and warm dimension to a serious candidate. It is also a chance to share the role family has played in motivating a candidate to pursue public office.
You can be tough and policy-minded and still talk to people about your kids.