Why is there such a gender gap in the GOP?

Don't call it a gender gap in voting, because I don't believe there is a considerable "voter" gender gap for the GOP in South Dakota. As in a prior post, I'm referring to the gap existing for those running for office as elected officials.

Before I start getting pelted with bricks and stones, it's not just me saying this. And it's not something hugely unique in South Dakota. It's a national trend in both parties. And even here at home, while Republicans have one woman in the State Senate, our colleagues across the aisle only have a whopping two.

On a pure numeric basis, I don't think the gap on all partisan elective levels is as bad as represented at the state or legislative level. Nationally, for all women in the legislature, we rank 40th. That's up from 42nd last year. Since the Center for American Women and Politics has been collecting data (1979) we've ranked as high as 10th in the nation, and as low as 44th. At this point, we're starting to climb back up, slowly but surely.

If you look at the people who hold partisan political office starting at the county level, such as Auditor, Register of Deeds, and Treasurer, by and large, there is an overwhelming number of Republican women serving. I haven't checked, but I would call it a safe bet that it's at the 80+ percentage level. But then they hit this artificial ceiling at the County Commission level, and the numbers absolutely bottom out.

So what are the reasons? Why the difference in numbers?

#1 - Economics 101

Consider this - at the county commission level, the jobs go from full time occupations (as with Auditor, Register of Deeds, and Treasurer) to part time commitments. You don't see full time employment again until the state elected official level. So, there's all these partisan County Commission and Legislative seats where you would typically have a regular job. And then you have to have employment that would allow you the time off to participate in these political activities - Several hours or more a week for commissioner - and a minimum of 3 months and then some for legislators.

Man or woman - If you're working, it's rare to find an employer who would allow it. In South Dakota, Federal, State and County governments are often large employers, and those employees are barred by law from running for those positions. That takes a bit off the top from your pool of potentials.

#2 - Economics 102

Having done it for a number of years, I can tell you that scraping the money together for a campaign can be daunting at times. Other times it can downright suck. In our male dominated political world, many men raise money using personal funds, business contacts, friends in service clubs, and you might even find a friend who is willing to raise money on your behalf. If you're of the opposite gender, You have personal funds, but often your business contacts are not as extensive. The networking opportunities that have been there for men, are typically not there for women.

Can't get the money? It makes it tougher to run. If you don't have the support structure, most people would not contemplate a campaign.

#3 - Like Teyve says, it's "Tradition."

In South Dakota, according to the SD KIDS COUNT Project report conducted a few years back, it noted that three out of every four mothers in two parent families work outside the home. As siilly as it is, the tradition is that the mother is expected to take care of the children, and in South Dakota, there are still people stuck in the 1950's who think there is something wrong if a female has interests aside from cookin', cleanin' and child rearin'.

So, by tradition, it's the job, then the family care, then you might have time for other interests. And that by itself is not an easy stereotype to break.

It was almost humorous at times when people - supposedly modern thinkers - would note that my wife worked outside the home, was on the local school board, and they'd take note of the vast number of children we have. And the question would inevitable be "How does she do it?" As if I "sit in the easy chair all night and demand my wench bring me some grog and a turkey leg." Yes, I can cook too. And while it might not be up to my wife's standards, I am known to clean on occasion as well.

Tradition might be one of the toughest factors of all to break.

So how does the GOP fix the gap? I'll work on that post tonight. I'm noodling on it as we speak. Some action items are easy. Other solutions might take years. But in the long run, it will continue to allow for a vibrant growing party.

In the meantime, for Republicans (and interested Democrats) wanting to read more about some of the out of state efforts, I'd recommend an excellent article on the topic here at the White House Project, as taken from the Philadelphia Inquirer.


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