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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.

Our Latest Research

Our Latest Research

Second in Command: The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Women Lieutenant Governors (2023)

SECOND IN COMMAND finds that most voters believe lieutenant governors are qualified to serve as governor—and that the office prepares women candidates to serve as governor. In that way, the path forward is clear.

All Research

Shared Hurdles: How Political Races Change When Two Women Compete (2022)

With more and more women running for office, races between women candidates will become the norm — not a novelty. Shared Hurdles reveals how candidates’ race, political party, and gender interact to influence voter opinion when more than one woman is on the ballot.

Staying Power: Strategies for Women Incumbents (2021)

As record numbers of women serve in public office, we are learning strategies for women incumbents seeking reelection. Staying Power shows that voters want a woman running for reelection to showcase her specific achievements in office–they will not assume she is doing a good job, nor simply take her word for it. Beyond addressing the issues […]

Putting Sexism in its Place on the Campaign Trail (2021)

With more women than ever in elected office, more women are likely to face sexism on the campaign trail. Sexism in politics can take many forms, from double standards for women candidates, to undue criticisms of their appearance, voice, or clothing. The decisions of whether and how to address sexism can be complex to navigate for women candidates—involving questions about the candidate’s electability, how to deal with personal offense, and how to message about sexist incidents.

Rising to the Occasion: How Women Leaders Prove They Can Handle a Crisis (2020)

While the current COVID-19 pandemic underscores its importance, proving they can handle a crisis has consistently been important for women candidates and will continue to be so in the years to come.

Ready, Willing, & Electable: Women Running for Executive Office (2019)

When running for executive office, women face obstacles that men running simply do not. This research, which asks about hypothetical Asian American, Black, Latina, lesbian, and white women candidates of the two major political parties, comprehensively examines what it takes for a woman to prove to voters she is ready to serve in executive office.

Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide for Women (2021)

For over 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. Our 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, and this updated edition is a new, concise look at what it takes for a woman to run and succeed.

Relaunch: Resilience and Rebuilding for Women Candidates After an Electoral Loss (2018)

Some women candidates may be hesitant to run again because they know that the barriers for women running for office are higher than they are for men - why should the standard after a loss be any different? This research shows that voters think women who have lost their elections are still qualified and likeable (two must-haves for women candidates), and that losing an election can be a good moment for a powerful launch of a woman candidate’s next campaign. It also points to concrete steps for women candidates to help set them up for a future run.

#MeToo: An Issue that Transcends Party (2018)

As the national conversation about sexual harassment continues to dominate headlines across the country, it is important that candidates be prepared for questions about this issue on the campaign trail. For women candidates especially, there may be a gendered expectation that they are out front on this subject and, for some, shining a light on sexual harassment may be a personal priority. This research from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, conducted in partnership with Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Consulting, shows that voters respond positively when women candidates on both sides of the aisle talk about sexual harassment in their candidate profiles, and provides insights about candidate messages supporting and questioning the #MeToo movement.

Voters, Candidates, and #MeToo (2018)

In the six months since Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement was revitalized on social media, the national conversation about sexual harassment shows no signs of slowing down. New research by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, conducted in partnership with Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting, reveals what voters think about the #MeToo movement and how their thoughts might translate into voting decisions.

Modern Family: How Women Candidates Can Talk About Politics, Parenting, and Their Personal Lives (2017)

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 family and personal life and how to do so without alienating voters.

Politics is Personal: Keys to Likeability and Electability for Women (2017)

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.

Opportunity Knocks: Now is the Time for Women Candidates (2017)

Today, women running for office are motivated by a renewed sense of urgency, as well as optimism about their ability to compete at a moment when voters are thirsting for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Our data supports their instincts that now is the time to run and serve. Indeed, it is an excellent time to be a woman running for office.

Unlocking the Door to Executive Office: Essential Tips for Women Candidates (2015)

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation (BLFF) has tracked every woman’s general election race for governor since 1998, and 2014 was no exception. With a goal to continually illuminate opportunities and obstacles for women running for executive office, BLFF worked with Dr. Kelly Dittmar and the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University to produce qualitative research on the 2014 gubernatorial elections with women candidates.

Change the Channel: Ads that Work for Women Candidates (2013)

Our past research has consistently shown that women candidates pay a higher price for going negative, even though all candidates must show how they differ from their opponents – it is a necessary part of campaigning. This qualitative research from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation offers evidence-based guidance on how women can successfully contrast with […]

Pitch Perfect: Winning Strategies for Women Candidates (2012)

We’ve all heard it: this perception that “I would vote for a ‘qualified’ woman,” especially when a woman runs for major statewide office. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation’s latest research helps to decode the idea of a qualified woman candidate. It reveals what makes a woman “qualified” in voters’ minds, and how one establishes qualifications […]

Breakthrough Messages for Women Voters (2012)

Executive Summary The statistics are widely reported: Women make up only 17 percent of Congress but are over 50 percent of the U.S. population. Even President Barack Obama believes Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress, saying, “I think it’s fair to say: That is almost guaranteed.” On behalf of […]

Turning Point: The Changing Landscape for Women Candidates (2010)

This report is designed to help women candidates navigate the changes that the 2010 elections represent. In many ways a departure from our earlier research, Turning Point: The Changing Landscape for Women Candidates helps women candidates for executive office identify and deploy all of their assets without succumbing to the pitfalls that gender bias can still present.

Leading with Authority (2008)

“Men are used to being in charge. Running for office is something they take as an entitlement. Women need to show ‘I have the right.'” – FEMALE STATE PARTY OFFICIAL Four women ran for Governor in 2008: Governor Chris Gregoire (WA), then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue (NC), Speaker Gaye Symington (VT) and former Congresswoman Jill Long […]

Positioning Women to Win (2006)

When we began studying the results of the 1998 elections, only 16 women had served as governor in the entire 225-year history of the United States. Today, that number has risen to 36. Six women governors currently serve as the chief executive in their states: Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oregon.

Cracking the Code (2002)

“In planning and launching a gubernatorial race, it’s an incredible advantage to know the unique challenges that women have faced in past elections. Cracking the Code will help women candidates in the current cycle know where they’ll be challenged and how to win.” – Governor Jennifer Granholm “Campaigns are full of uncertainties, and the key […]

Speaking with Authority (2001)

On September 11, everything changed. Plans. Habits. Priorities. Lifelong assumptions were opened to re-evaluation. Only today are we fully realizing the impact the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, have had on our thinking. What, then, is the effect of 9/11 on women’s candidacies for public office, we wondered? How will women fare […]

Keys to the Governor’s Office (1998-2001)

Only 18. In the 225-year history of the United States only 18 women have served as governor. In 2001, only four women occupy the top job – in New Hampshire, Montana, Delaware and Arizona. While the numbers of women in state legislatures continued to grow in the 1990s and the numbers of women serving in the […]