chapter  5
34 Pages

Understanding the Glass Ceiling

Women and the Competitive Environment

Female incumbents are less likely than male incumbents to run unopposed in both their own primary and the general election; in other words, they are less likely to get a "free pass." In addition, people show that a female incumbent seeking re-election triggers more competition for the nomination within the opposition party and that female incumbents are more likely to face female challengers. While the presence of female incumbents encourages more women to run, incumbency continues to act as a "political glass ceiling," impeding the increase in the number of women who serve in Congress. The conventional wisdom is that once they make the decision to run, women have achieved electoral parity with men. Even though women win elective office as often as men do, women candidates, especially incumbents, may be initially perceived as easier to defeat and may face a more competitive environment.