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“A Mom First and a Candidate Second”: Gender Differences in Candidates' Self-Presentation of Family

July 2015

Brittany L. Stalsburg , Mona S. Kleinberg


Conventional wisdom states that while parenthood is an asset for male political candidates, it is often a liability for female candidates. Female politicians are less likely to have children than male ones and, when they do, they often have less of them and their children tend to be older. Female politicians also emphasize their role as a mother less in campaign materials, such as pictures. However, even though women face more negative impacts for parenthood than men, childless women face even more scrutiny than mothers in politics, due to the perception that they are not fulfilling their societal role of motherhood and are, therefore, viewed as deviant. Thus, the article states that motherhood can sometimes be used as an asset, especially in recent years.

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Policy Implications

The article argues there are ways for women to strategically employee their motherhood in order to utilize it as an asset. Emphasizing traits such as selflessness, compassion, ability to multitask, and a “mother’s intuition” can help female candidates. Female politicians should be careful to not emphasize their motherhood too much (such as through pictures) as this can raise questions about how they will balance politics and family, as well as it may make them appear too feminine. However, motherhood may help to normalize them and make them appear more fit for office than a non-mother, so it should not be ignored either.

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