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

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.

But advantages for women came with drawbacks. As we have seen in the past and as one woman running in 2010 observed, “Men are judged on their potential; women are judged on their performance.” Voters continue to set a higher bar for women candidates than for their male counterparts. Though some women cleared that bar in 2010, those who didn’t had farther to fall.

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.

This guide is also an invitation. If you are running for office or planning to run, I invite you to use it to its fullest to help inform your campaign. If you have not yet decided to run, consider our research an invitation to become a candidate yourself. And since we know that women need to be recruited to run, I urge you to pass this invitation along to the smart, strong, inspiring women who you know and want to see become our country’s future leaders.

Barbara Lee Founder and President Barbara Lee Family Foundation Cambridge, Massachusetts June, 2011

Every woman who runs for Governor knows there are strategic potholes on the campaign trail. Those who run with the Barbara Lee Family Foundation's research in hand have the benefit of knowing what they are, where they show up and how to navigate around them.