Keys to Elected Office

Campaign Essentials

The essential guide for women by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation.


Running for office as a woman is different than it is for a man. Why? Voters have higher expectations for women candidates which create obstacles and some opportunities. And even though voters say it is important to have more women in office, it doesn’t always mean they will actually vote for women. Findings from Barbara Lee Family Foundation research paint the picture:

  • Voters have a stubborn “imagination barrier” when it comes to picturing a woman as executive-level leaders, after years of seeing white men dominate in those roles.
  • Women candidates have to prove they are qualified. For men, their qualifications are assumed.
  • Women face the double bind of needing to show competence and likeability. Voters will support a male candidate they do not like, but for women – this quality is non-negotiable.
  • Voters accord women candidates a “virtue advantage,” seeing them as more honest and ethical than men. This advantage can be dramatically reversed if voters perceive a woman candidate to be dishonest or acting unethically.
  • 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. Voters recognize a double standard for moms, but actively and consciously participate in it.

While the current political landscape for women candidates presents obstacles, our no-nonsense, pragmatic resources help overcome them. We study and analyze the challenges of campaigning in order to give women directive advice on how
to succeed. These resources are the compilation of over 20 years of research studying these complex attitudes toward women candidates, every woman’s campaign for governor on both sides of the aisle, and real-time polling on voters’ views on
everything from words that work for women candidates to how to call out an opponent’s record.

In Preparation

We look at what it takes for women to lay the groundwork for a run for office- the traits and resources, and how to acquire and convey them.


In Substance

We break down the essential issue areas to master, from establishing qualification, to owning an economic plan, to contrasting with opponents.


Finally, In Presentation

We lay out the importance of using messages that resonate, having a professional and approachable style, and bouncing back from mistakes.