In Spring 2023, Mollie Melnick (Majors: Political Science & Spanish) completed an Honors Project under the mentorship of Dr. Emily Lynch (Political Science) about women in politics, interviewing several women legislators in Rhode Island. Click here for a link to her YouTube podcast.
Title: Does Sexism Alter a Woman’s Decision to Run for U.S. Political Office?
Abstract: Women make up approximately 25% of the United States Congress, yet women account for more than half of the country’s population. In our current Congress in power, the 118th Congress, there are 25 women in the 100 person Senate and there are 124 women in the 435 person House of Representatives. And 71% of these women in Congress are Democrats. These disparities prompted me to evaluate the reasons behind the clear absence of proportional representation in the United States Congress. My research indicates that political scientists mostly agree that while women and men can and do win Congressional seats at the same rate, the decision for a woman to decide to run for office is much harder to make than for a man. Women are less confident than men, which leaves them doubting their political skills and ability to run for office and serve the public. Women, especially women of color, also tend to lack political party support, which can make it harder for women to obtain the necessary means to run. And women face racial and gender stereotypes from the media which can influence voters. After looking at research at a federal level, I then conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with seven women members of the Rhode Island General Assembly to evaluate whether my conclusions about women in Congress hold true to Rhode Island. The interviewees included a diverse group with variations in age, political experience, political party, and race and ethnicity. To summarize my findings, I created a short podcast series featuring clips of my interviews. I found many similarities, yet also profound differences, between women politicians in Rhode Island and women politicians in Congress.