Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guest Blog: Women & Elections: 5 Reasons Why Women Make Great Political Candidates

In honor of Women's Equality Day and the 90th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, here is a guest blog from Phil Van Treuren at Killer Campaigning.

One of the reasons we started Killer Campaigning was to show potential political candidates of all demographics how to serve their communities by running for office. As a former political consultant and campaign manager, however, I’m especially interested in encouraging women to get into politics–particularly because I know how effective they can be as candidates in local elections.

While women often make unparalleled government officials, they also have a knack for being very competitive political campaign candidates. As a political consultant, I would have much rather worked for a strong female candidate than a typical male candidate–for many reasons. While female politicians and candidates are outnumbered by their male counterparts today, I’m encouraged by the growing number of talented women entering political campaign races every year.

So, how do women win such a large percentage of campaigns and elections they enter, and what characteristics make females such effective political candidates? The reasons why women are often more successful than men in politics are far too numerous to list in one article, but we’re going to take a look at five of the most compelling below. If you have more to add to the list, please leave a comment at the end of this post.

And if you’re a women thinking about starting a career in politics and elections, I hope you’ll go for it . . . your country and community needs more talented females in government!

Top 5 Reasons Why Women Make Great Local Political Campaign Candidates

1. Natural Communication Skills

While nothing in this post is meant to stereotype men or women, it’s a fact that females are often more talented and comfortable in the realm of effective communication.

Being able to communicate your ideas in a compelling fashion is a vital trait for political candidates, and the person who can do so naturally–without having to be taught how–has an advantage in any campaign. Many voters find the communication style of women candidates more appealing, which helps in both one-on-one grassroots situations and public forums or debates.

2. Higher Thresholds for Campaign Trail Stress

The rigors of the campaign trail–even in local elections–can be much more demanding and stressful than new candidates expect. A woman’s innate ability to process and deal with stressful situations calmly is a huge boon in political campaigns.

Not all men are hotheads, but a male political candidate is much more likely to respond to respond to the steady stress of campaigning in a damaging fashion. Angry outbursts, impulsive comments and bad attitudes just aren’t as common in female candidates.

3. Better Ability Make Supporters & Volunteers Feel Appreciated

One of the most important–and overlooked–things that political candidates can do for their campaigns is making employees, volunteers and supporters feel as though their hard work is appreciated.

I can’t tell you how many male candidates I’ve worked with who treat their staff and volunteers like dirt, which leads to awful productivity. This kind of arrogance and lack of empathy might be present in some women candidates, as well, but it isn’t as common. Women are often much better at letting people know how important and needed they are.

4. Lower Likelihood for “Skeletons in the Closet”

Sure, women can have their secrets, too, but they are much less likely than men to have career-destroying skeletons hanging in the closet. As a campaign manager, one of your greatest fears is that something scandalous is going to be revealed about your candidate in the last few weeks of the election.

Male candidates certainly don’t have a corner on the scandal market, but many of them do seem to have more political baggage. How often do you see a scandal involving a female politician in the news?

5. Greater Voter Appeal and Demographic Advantages

It’s a well-known fact in political consulting circles that a female candidate will often run a few points ahead of a male challenger just because she is a woman. We’re not going to explore the reasons for this, but in most districts, being a woman is automatically going to give you a head start in the race.

Now, just being female won’t win the election for you–it also takes good planning, hard work and a bit of luck. As a man, though, I would much rather run against another man than go head-to-head with a female candidate at the polls.

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