2019: 20 Years of Research

20th Anniversary

While 2019 marks 100 years since the 19th amendment was passed, granting women the right to vote, it also marks the 20 year anniversary of our first BLFF research memo.

Since its inception in 1998, the foundation has studied every woman candidate’s race for governor, producing nonpartisan, pragmatic guides for women on both sides of the aisle to enable them to maximize their strategic advantages and clear the hurdles on the way to public office. Over the past two decades, we’ve watched the face of leadership (literally) start to change as more women were elected to office at every level. And in 2018, more than ever before, we saw women shedding conventional wisdom to run as their authentic selves.

Although the more things change, the more they stay the same. Many of the hurdles women faced 20 years ago are still there. This year we will look back at how campaigns have – and haven’t – changed since 1999.

For more, check out our 20th Anniversary edition of Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide for Women.

How has conventional wisdom changed?


“It is when you run for the top office that people get uncomfortable. That’s why I think women running for governor is so important. It is so important to see women in executive positions.”
Gubernatorial Candidate


“They look at how you dress, they look at your facial expressions, they look more at how you use your hands. And when you’re raising your voice, you know, sometimes we go high and sometimes that distracts away from the points you’re trying to make.”
– Gubernatorial Candidate


“But as a woman with children, she totally connected to other women.  Now, this was not conventional wisdom.  In the last couple of years, you would have never thought to have this kind of direct appeal to women by a woman, but it was totally genuine, and she took it straight to the voters.”
– Campaign Manager



“Many businesspeople have a tendency to be gray-hair suits – a number of them don’t even have women on their boards. Or if they do, it’s a token woman. The fact that [the candidate] was a female was not easy for them to accept. She wasn’t one of them.”
– Finance Consultant


“Women candidates are no longer perceived as making a feminist point. Those interviewed do not believe voters see women candidates as novel or distinct. The most often recognized advantage of being a woman candidate was in debates when there are multiple male candidates and only one female candidate on the stage or podium.”
– BLFF Research Guide


“2010 was a turning point for women running for Governor — and a turning point in our 12 years of researching their campaigns. In the midst of the most partisan political landscape in recent history, gender disadvantages faded and women candidates showed distinct advantages over their male competitors. More than ever, gender has the potential to become a strategic asset for women running for executive office.”
– BLFF Research Guide


“The connection between likability and qualifications is particularly troubling because previous research on women candidates by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation found that voters were perfectly willing to vote for a male executive they thought was qualified but did not particularly like. However, we found that they would not vote for a woman they found unlikeable even if she were qualified.”
– BLFF Research Guide


“Our previous research on women officeholders and candidates showed that many of the attributes and qualities that establish qualifications also improve likeability for women. The two were linked – they rose and fell together. This current research reveals a shift in that conventional wisdom. Some of the factors that help establish likeability do not reinforce qualifications.”
– BLFF Research Guide

Let’s look at the numbers…





We'll continue to update this page throughout the year as we look back on 20 years of women in politics.

Join the conversation on social using the hashtag #BLFF20.