The Gender Gap in Political Ambition and the Decision to Run: A Look at 2018 and Susan Wild (D, PA-7th)

Emma Whittum

The decision to run is linked in critical ways to representation. Past research suggests that political ambition is one of the most critical variables leading individuals to run for office and that political ambition is often formed early in life. However, there are many more factors at play than just an early interest in public office that can affect whether or not a candidate develops interest and makes a decision to run. Specifically, female candidates have unique experiences in regards to political interest and ambition (Carroll and Sanbonmatsu 2013). Careers are not planned step by step, recruitment processes change over time, and political activism can be spurred due to community or nation-wide events that attract citizens’ attention to certain issues. Undoubtedly, the 2016 election of President Donald J. Trump affected the nation as a whole and those who choose to run for its’ offices in the years and cycles that followed. In November 2018, the United States midterm elections saw a record number of women run for and win political office in both national and state-wide elections. Following the 2018 elections, 127 women now serve in the 116th Congress, equally 23.7% of both chambers; 86 women serve in statewide executive offices (27.6% of those positions); and 2,126, women are serving in state legislatures (equal to 28.8% of those seats) (CAWP 2018a; 2018b; 2018c).

Historically, women have been underrepresented in public office. A shift in the status quo occurred with the elections in 1992, dubbed the original “Year of the Woman” because of the record number of women elected. However, this change did not produce a lasting effect as the number of women elected showed a slow upward growth for almost the next two decades (Kurtzleben 2018). Yet, a change seems to have occurred amongst the women who made the decision to run within that 20-year gap to produce such a drastically large number of female candidates in 2018. As Kurtzelben (2018) suggests, rather than waiting to be asked to run, there have been an increasing number of women engaging as candidates on their own. She suggests this is in part due to the momentum and energy that was activated by Trump’s election in 2016 and the subsequent resistance groups and movements that were created in response to it (Kurtzleben 2018). With a clear social and environmental shift for the country, what other factors and variables could have led to an increase of women making the decision to run for office in the 2018 midterm elections?

In this chapter, I synthesize early 21st century research on the gender gap in political ambition, paying attention to the variables that shape women’s decisions to run for office. With primary and crucial help from Lawless and Fox, leaders in the field of research on women in politics, I define, summarize, and discuss many of the factors that affect the political ambition of women. In the 2018 midterm elections, 589 women ran or said they would run for the House of Representatives, Senate, or Governor’s seat, with 274 advancing past the primaries (CAWP 2018; Politico 2018). It was an election cycle that broke records not just for female representation, but for many types of representation, bringing much needed diversity in the 116th Congress. Thirty seven women were newly elected to Congress, breaking the previous record of 24 (CAWP 2018; Politico 2018), disrupting many seats that had previously been held by incumbents, or winning one of the 55 seats left open by retiring members of Congress (Ballotpedia 2018).

In order to bring past research into the context of the 2018 elections, I conduct a case study of Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild, of Pennsylvania’s 7th District. I summarize findings from a telephone interview with Congresswoman Wild about her background and her decision to run for office. From there, I use the answers she provided to make more sense out of the 2018 midterms in the context of the literature. Finally, I consider the implications of my findings, imaging what the new “Year of the Woman” might mean moving forward for women who are aspiring to become involved in the world of politics post-2018.


When women run for office, they perform just as well as men and win just as often (Fox and Lawless 2008), yet under-representation still exists and persists. If women win at the same rates as men when they run for office, what makes gender parity representation so elusive? The simple answer is that women just do not run. One of the most notable phenomena when discussing the cause of the underrepresentation of women is the presence of the gender gap in political ambition. As described by Dolan et al. (2016) the gender gap in political ambition results because even though “they are qualified by all objective measures, women are far more likely than men to lack the confidence to put themselves forward or to conjure up reasons why they should not run” (87). The gender gap in political ambition is a consequence of multiple factors. Political ambition is dynamic and many political scientists conceptualize this phenomenon via a rational choice paradigm that defines it primarily as “a strategic response to a political opportunity structure” (Fox and Lawless 2011, 443). To make this rational choice, future candidates must first consider running for elective office and then proceed with a cost-benefit analysis of entering the electoral arena (Fox and Lawless 2004). There are many individual-level factors that affect political ambition, such as political socialization or encouragement as well as crucial structural and institutional factors, such as recruitment by political parties or the persistence of the incumbency advantage. Political ambition as a concept does not exist within a vacuum, so all of these factors must be examined in the context of each other (Bangs 2017). In the following, I identify and explain the most prominent factors that contribute to the persistence of the gender gap in political ambition for female candidates.

Individual-Level Factors

Sex-role socialization, or the “division of activities into the public extra-familial jobs done by the male and the private intra-familial ones performed by the female” (Lawless, 2001, 413), is a phenomenon that has affected the inclusion of women into many professions deemed inherently “male” including business, law, and politics. While many researchers want to draw direct parallels between family roles and structures and a lack of political ambition in women, Fox and Lawless (2014a) argue that traditional family dynamics do not predict interest in running for office. Traditional family roles do not affect candidates’ recruitment, perceptions of qualifications, or levels of political participation, all of which are predictors of political ambition (Fox and Lawless 2014a). It could be yet another social barrier that women face when emerging as candidates based on expectations and perceptions, but family structure is not a clear causal determinant for the gender gap in political ambition. Factors such as disproportionate responsibility in childcare or household tasks are other social structures that can affect the decisions women make surrounding their futures and careers. Fox and Lawless (2012) found that 43% of women say they are responsible for the majority of household tasks compared to 7% of men, and that 60% of women say they are responsible for the majority of childcare compared to 6% of men. These elements can affect the ultimate decision to run and the continued underrepresentation of women: however, they are not the only factors (Fox and Lawless 2012). In order to overcome much of the sex-role socialization and gender-role norms that are prominent in early childhood and developmental years, both encouragement and political socialization can help to reverse and combat against gender stereotypes and norms. Political socialization, or the “experiences that either directly or indirectly shape political attitudes and behavior in childhood and early adulthood,” is key when looking at when and how political ambition is formed early in life (Fox and Lawless 2014b, 502).

Political Socialization

As Lawless and Fox (2005) observe, there are many elements that can affect the presence of nascent ambition, or the “inclination to consider a candidacy” (644). These include factors such as strategic considerations, ideological motivations,  minority status, having a politicized upbringing, having competitive personality traits, and what life cycle and life stage variables, all of which shape individual considerations about deciding to run for office (Fox and Lawless 2005). Later work from Fox and Lawless expands on these factors but also include individual level variables such as encouragement and individuals’ perceptions of one’s own qualifications, often a response to encouragement to engage with politics early on in life.

Political socialization in the family is a primary factor in the development of young people’s political attitudes and behaviors (Fox and Lawless 2013; 2014b). Political interest is an “inherited” trait, instilling in future citizens that they themselves have the power to influence government action, whether through exercising their right to vote or actually running for office (Fox and Lawless, 2005). Another main factor is the amount in which women and men immerse themselves in politicized environments such as political science classes or student governments, often associated with the ambition to run for public office later on in life. Women are much less likely than men to immerse themselves in these things, starting in high school years and then into college (Fox and Lawless 2013; 2014b).

In a more recent study done by Fox and Lawless that specifically looks at political ambition amongst young college-educated women and men, they found that men were “twice as likely as women to have thought about running for office ‘many times,’ whereas women were 20 percentage points more likely than men to never have considered it” and women were “50 percent more likely than men to assert that they would never run” (Fox and Lawless 2013, 2). Even if they were to consider running, women are almost 50 percent less likely to actually follow through and do so (Fox and Lawless 2011). These statistics were common when they surveyed college-aged students, displaying that tendencies towards political ambition are established much earlier than when men and women are about to enter the professions from which most candidates emerge, i.e. law, business, education and political activism (Fox and Lawless 2013; 2014b). Participating in organized sports, often fostering a crucial competitive trait, is found to be more important to and more engaged in by younger men than women (Fox and Lawless 2014b). Additionally, in both high school and college, topics and organizations in which young men and women engage with are different, as men are more likely to take political science and government classes and talk about politics with their friends compared to women (Fox and Lawless 2013). Decisions surrounding young people’s involvement in certain activities or classes all comes down to encouragement, either by parents, teachers or peers.


Encouragement by parents to play sports, encouragement by teachers to take a certain class or consider a certain career path, or encouragement by peers on which organizations to join and participate in are all ways in which early and young adult years can affect the presence of political ambition, depending on the amount of encouragement (Fox and Lawless 2013). Individuals that might have never considered running or were previously actively excluded, respond very positively to any forms of encouragement, either from party leaders and other elected officials or from personal contacts like family members or colleagues (Fox Lawless 2013). Yet women are significantly less likely to receive this type of encouragement (Fox and Lawless 2013). This type of encouragement, or lack thereof, can lead to self-confidence in a future candidate and can help to shape their assessment on whether or not they feel qualified to run, win, and execute the jobs required of elected office.

Women are often socialized from a very young age to not exude over-confidence or assertiveness, resulting in an “underestimating of their own skills relative to objective indicators of competence” (Fox and Lawless 2014b, 505). Society rewards men for expressing ambition, but does not do the same for women, so they are therefore socialized to be hesitant (Miller 2016). This also becomes apparent with questions of past experience and background as men are more likely than women to express confidence in skills that they do not have and overconfidence in skills that they do have, whereas women still are underestimating their own levels of intelligence and are more apt to internalize criticism or see it negatively (Fox and Lawless 2014b). Many studies and surveys have found that women and men both have higher political ambition when encouraged as children, suggesting that childhood is an ideal place to begin encouraging women to think about running for office (Boschma 2017). More attention should be given to these earlier stages in life which serve as strong predictors for whether or not a woman will exhibit political ambition at the same rate as her male counterpart.

Structural and Institutional Factors

The above shows that women consider and are influenced by many different factors that do not influence men in the same way. General studies surrounding the concept of political ambition find that potential candidates are more likely to run for office when they are facing favorable political and structural circumstances (Fox and Lawless 2002, 267) and that the effect of ambition on the decision to run depends upon perceptions of the strategic environment (Fulton et. al. 2006, 236). However, since there are many structural disadvantages that female candidates face when making the decision to run for office such as lack of recruitment, lack of political representation, lack of representation in “pipeline” professions, the persistence of the incumbency advantage, and aversion to elections and their fundamental structures, clearly the circumstances are not the most favorable for women.


One of the largest institutional factors that prevents women from running or actively discourages them from doing so is recruitment efforts, or lack thereof, by the political parties and political elites (Dittmar 2015). While different researchers have found that women are just as likely as men to get recruited and receive encouragement from an electoral gatekeeper, it professional and career networks are still overwhelmingly male and these networks are the primary sources of future political candidates (Fox and Lawless 2010; Sanbonmatsu 2006). Dittmar (2015) states that women are just less likely to receive the type of encouragement that would be the most influential in increasing their likelihood of running, from either the party leaders or elected officials. Women candidates are seen to be more receptive to recruitment efforts, sometimes expressing interest in running at the same time they are being asked to run by a party leader (Sanbonmatsu 2006). Women candidates are much more likely to run for office when they have received a suggestion to do so, are much less likely to be “self-starters” and are more likely than men to be “persuaded” or “encouraged” to run for office (Moncrief, Squire, Jewell 2001). Therefore, incentives must be created for the recruiters and the recruited since women seem to be more acutely aware of the potential costs of a candidacy, such as how it could affect their roles outside of political life, i.e. in families, communities, or other professional settings (Dittmar 2015). Even when women are recruited, they often believed that they are not qualified enough to hold the position in office (Miller 2016). Women are far more likely than men to run for Congress specifically when ambition and opportunity coincide; opportunities that are provided, and not hindered, by structural and institutional forces that are at play (Fulton, Maestas, Maisel and Stone 2006). Yet, it is exactly this type of encouragement and recruitment from electoral gatekeepers that are primarily male that provides the “critical boost in a potential candidate’s likelihood of exhibiting political ambition” and is one of the most important predictors for considering a candidacy (Fox and Lawless 2010, 321; Crowder-Meyer 2013).


Campaigns are quite costly, both monetarily and emotionally, especially if the terrain is bumpy, political success seems impossible, and office-holding is viewed as not worthwhile. The stereotypes surrounding campaigns, such as their untruthful nature and the persistence of biased and sexist media coverage, are among other reasons that could result in women becoming “election averse” (Dittmar 2015; Kanthak and Woon 2014; Fox and Lawless 2010). Political representation and lack of diversity are issues that confront democratic systems and challenge their legitimacy when certain groups of people do not feel represented and feel they cannot represent themselves (Fox and Lawless 2005; Casas-Arce 2015). This lack of descriptive representation, or “the act of standing in for those who are otherwise absent, with the emphasis on what the representative looks like rather than whatever actions she or he takes,” for women and other historically excluded groups, can challenge the legitimacy of a democratic system (Dolan et al 2016, 7). In an experiment conducted by Kanthak and Woon (2014), their findings indicate that the decline in candidate entry is not due to differences in ability, confidence about said ability, or risk aversion. But rather election aversion is a result of campaigns being too costly and too untruthful for women to be willing to run in them as often as men. These structural aspects about the nature of campaigns are crucial institutional barriers that are present for many women when making the decision to run for office. Similar studies conducted, such as by Fulton, Maestas, Maisel and Stone (2006), find that female candidates may just be more “strategic” with respect to their decisions to run for office since they are more likely to run when the expected benefits of office show a favorable outcome, and the reverse is true when the expected benefits of office are less positive. Perceptions around campaigns and running for office can significantly affect the decision making process for female candidates when deciding to run.


Politics has historically been a male dominated field and incumbents of elected positions have reelection rates of 90% or higher due to structural factors such as gerrymandering. Therefore, the incumbency advantage seems to be one of the largest structural disadvantages facing women who might otherwise consider running for office (Fox and Lawless 2004). Some see the high reelection rates for incumbents as an electorate that is largely content with the performance of their representatives, and others see the high rates of reelection as evidence that the relationship between the electorate and the representatives is broken (Carson and Roberts 2013). It also remains true that many of the “pipeline” professions for politics such as law, business, education and politics/political activism tend to be male dominated, displaying a clear structural advantage for men seeking to run for office. Lots of early research done on female candidate emergence points to the conclusion that as the number of women in positions such as law and business increase, so too will the number of women deciding to run for office (Fox and Lawless 2004). One study by Fox and Lawless (2013) shows that women are significantly more likely to indicate desire to volunteer in their communities, as they often have a strong desire to transform the communities they are living in, resulting in the high percentage of women serving as school board members. However, many researchers solely point to the structural factors, failing to recognize the decisive interaction with the aforementioned individual-level factors that influence the presence, and growth, of political ambition and the decision to run for office within the structures that have been created for and by the political system.


As of 2018, there are now 127 women serving in the 116th Congress, 37 serving for their first time (CAWP 2018c; CAWP and Politico 2018). On the state level, Pennsylvania has 18 Congressional districts in which currently four women are serving as representatives, all elected in 2018: Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, Chrissy Houlahan and Susan Wild (GovTrack 2019). Before the four elected in 2018, there had only been a total of seven ever elected into the U.S. House of Representatives, and never any to the U.S. Senate. It is not an overstatement to suggest that the election of 2018 was notable for these four women and for the state of Pennsylvania (U.S. House of Representatives 2019). This research is centered around the concept of political ambition and how it affects female candidates and their decisions to run for office. In order to examine political ambition in the contemporary political context of the 2018 midterm elections, I conducted a telephone interview with Congresswoman Susan Wild, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time for Pennsylvania’s 7th District in November 2018.

In my interview with Representative Wild, I asked her questions about her childhood and upbringing, influences that shaped her past and previous careers,  her decision to run for office in 2018, and her early experiences serving in the largest freshmen class of women ever elected to Congress to date. (The full list of interview questions can be found in Appendix A).

This interview is useful for generating future research that can examine factors shaping the candidacies of other women  who made the decision to run for the first time in House races in 2018. My interview is limited, however, especially when it comes to making generalizations. For example, my interview relies on Susan Wild’s recollection of her decision to run; I did not have an opportunity to speak with her before the decision was made.  More importantly, I also acknowledge that Susan Wild is a singular, female, Democratic representative, which means she is not representative of all of the female politicians that made the decision to run in 2018. She serves as a single example of a woman who ran and won in 2018 and what she experienced leading up to that decision. This case study is a contemporary example of a female candidate that ran for office with a specific focus on her past experiences that could have led her to develop a sense of political ambition.


Portrait of Susan Ellis Wild from the 115th Congress.
Congresswoman Susan Wild        (D, PA-7th)

Congresswoman Susan Ellis Wild was born into a politically engaged military family in Wiesbaden, Germany, with a conservative father and a mother who was “so liberal that she was kind of off the charts,” so politics was constantly a dinner-table conversation. There was always lively conversation going on in Wild’s family about the latest current events.  Participation in these conversations was encouraged and expected by everyone in the family, so Wild naturally developed an interest in politics. Early in life she participated in organized sports including cheerleading and track, and eventually attended American University in D.C. for her undergraduate studies graduating with a major in Political Science. She then attended the George Washington Law School, also in D.C., where she embarked on her +30-year career in law. Early in Wild’s career as a lawyer, she was seriously considering running to be a judge, however passed up several opportunities to do so because she was enjoying what she was doing in terms of being politically active. “I enjoyed political activity the most,” and as a judge she wouldn’t be able to participate in that as much. As part of her law career, Wild was interested in pursuing litigation and was originally encouraged by a male boss of hers’ however, “many other people discouraged her from getting into litigation because there were so few women in the field.” So with her decision not to run as a judge, she remained politically interested as a lawyer by supporting certain candidates, pursued litigation by “finding her way herself” and raised a family in the process.

In her own words, “2016 changed things for all of us.” At the time, Charlie Dent (R) was still the congressmen of Pennsylvania’s 15th district, now the 7th due to redistricting, and was very popular amongst the electorate. “I’m not a big fan of taking on losing battles, and running against him would have felt too personal.” However, Charlie Dent soon decided to step down from his position and Wild, “very concerned about what was happening politically,” decided to run for his seat and eventually won, becoming one of four women sent to D.C. to represent the state of Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives in 2018. Only seven women from PA have ever served in the House  (Lazarski 2018). Before making her decision to run, Wild recalls Pat Schroeder (D, CO-1st), the first female U.S. Representative from the state of Colorado, who served as a strong female political role model for her. Schroeder passed a personally meaningful bill that affected Wild’s mother as a divorced military spouse, and Wild saw first-hand the beneficial effects it had on her mother’s life and the positive way in which her mother would discuss it. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also served as strong female role models for Wild with Ginsburg’s powerful influence on our country’s laws and Roosevelt’s independence from her husband and dedication to social programs. Similar to RBG with her background in law, Wild feels that law does provide an advantage for her as a Congresswoman with regards to the readings and briefings she received upon arriving to Capitol Hill. While there are many lawyers in Congress, and at times Wild herself was criticized by voters for her long law career that makes her similar to many other politicians, there are fewer in this year’s Congress and often in committee work when questioning witnesses, others yield time to Wild due to her familiarity of the situations and how to use the time smartly and efficiently. When discussing this freshmen class as a whole she says, “it’s great! It’s a wonderful thing, looking on our side of the aisle and seeing the incredible diversity in terms of religion, ethnic background and more is very representative of our country today.”

Thinking back on her experience, Wild said, “there is no way you can anticipate what it will be like until you do it.” Life was considerably different for Wild before and after the primaries, however she found that she was “never really off duty.” If you are not directly speaking somewhere or making an appearance, you are always thinking about what you will be saying next or what policies you need to brush up on. “Going in, I didn’t have any idea of what to expect. I knew it was going to be a long, hard road, but it was worth it.” Looking back, she believes that for herself if her children were young now, “she never would have been able to do this while the kids were still home,” and observes that she works with many women in the current Congress who do have young children at home and are recipients of negative attention and double standards surrounding leaving their children at home. She refers to Paul Ryan when he famously said that “he’s retiring because he had never been in the same city as his kids for a bedtime except on weekends,” and how this was a widely accepted occurrence for him as Speaker of the House and as a male politician. She states that this exemplifies the double standard women with younger children face when they are criticized as not being good mothers and not taking care of them daily when they have to leave their children at home to travel for work. Wild admires those women who still serve with younger children at home because while they should still run and take office if they so desire, “parenthood is stressful and challenging enough without having to travel back and forth all of the time.”

Gender still matters in 2018 and for future elections, especially when Wild was the only woman running in her race. She stated that, “I was constantly told I had to smile more even when talking about serious matters, and be more concerned with my physical appearance in terms of dress, makeup, hair etc.,” and that men don’t have to think about these things as much since there is a “lower bar set for them.” She reflected back on Bernie Sanders running in 2016 and that if “a woman of that age with that hair had been running, she would not have received the same support or attention.” Positively she stated that, “the good news is that as soon as you open your mouth, if you know what you’re talking about, voters respond, and that hasn’t always been the case.” She didn’t perceive blatant or explicit sexism when on the campaign trail, yet stated that, “I always felt that the initial approach for women was harder. When you first walk into a room, people size you up differently.” Wild observes that there isn’t a shortage of mentors or role models for women in really any field nowadays which she sees as only having a positive effect on the further representation of women in politics and other fields that have been historically male-dominated. With this she said to those younger women who want to get involved politically, “work on political campaigns at very low levels, get involved with local party committees, become activists, become exposed to the political world and start running for low level races as you learn a lot just through the process. It’s not all about wanting to win.” Wild thought back to her first race for elected office for the position of Lehigh County Commissioner in 2013, which she lost to the 20-year incumbent Percy Dougherty (Cassi 2013), and how she learned a lot from that race despite the result. “You can’t just run for office one day with nothing political,” so it is about accessing the political environment for wherever you may live, “to get a sense of how things are working,” to learn all that you can to work for the positive election outcome (Susan Wild 2019).


Wild’s interview is important and, at a minimum, confirms the influence of many of the factors identified in previous research that shape women’s political ambition. Wild herself identified many of these factors as connected to her eventual decision to run for office. As Lawless and Fox note, political socialization from a young age is crucial; developing an interest in politics provides ongoing encouragement and overall political information over the life course (Fox and Lawless 2005; 2012; 2013; 2014b). Wild did grow up in a “politically social” household where politics were discussed often and with the expectation that everyone would contribute. Wild discussed that politics was a normal and common dinner table conversation for her and her family throughout her younger years, especially with parents that were not necessarily ideologically aligned. Wild did participate in sports early on in life, helping to develop a competitive trait that is helpful in order to withstand the rigors of a campaign. She did have a successful and successful legal career, a career that is one of the main “pipeline” professions when looking at the career ladder to politics (Fox and Lawless 2013). Earlier on in her law career, she was discouraged at one point from pursuing litigation due to the lack of women in the field, a comment that did not end up holding her back from deciding to pursue litigation on her own. Wild never stated that she was actively discouraged from running for office, however did make the personal and conscious choice to run after her two children were grown and out of the house (and decided against running for judge earlier on), suggestion that at least in part, responsibilities connected to raising children are important factors.

When running for her seat in the now 7th district of Pennsylvania in 2018, she did have an advantage as Charlie Dent, the Republican incumbent, was deciding to step down, leaving the seat open. Wild did not have to directly face the structural incumbency advantage when designing or executing her campaign strategies, something that often prevents other women running for office from winning. On the campaign trail she did acknowledge that she felt at times she faced more scrutiny on things such as physical appearance compared to her male counterparts and was sized up differently when walking into rooms for events such as debates. While she felt she may have faced some different obstacles than male candidates, she noted that running in any race, whether it’s a winning or losing one, is an important experience to learn from. Especially for women who want to run someday, getting first-hand experience on a campaign can provide valuable knowledge and can lead to greater feelings of qualification if choosing to make the decision to run for an elected office position later in life. 


This research aimed to learn more about the factors shaping women’s political political ambition in 2018. Susan Wild is just one of the hundreds of women who sought political office in 2018. Her experiences, nonetheless, confirm much of what the literature suggests is most important in leading more women to run. These include early childhood political socialization, receiving encouragement from family and teachers, engaging in activities (like sports) that build confidence and self-esteem, career paths that foster leadership skills–all of these shape women’s political efficacy and ambition. Structural variables matter, too–Susan Wild had the benefit of running for an open seat without having to take on an incumbent and the advantages that usually accrue to existing officeholders (e.g., fundraising advantages, name recognition). In my interview with her, Susan Wild pointed to several role models–Pat Schroeder, Ruth Bader Ginsburg–who inspired her own political involvement. As one of the few women ever elected from the state of Pennsylvania to serve in federal office, and as one of the largest, most diverse classes of women ever elected to Congress, Susan Wild herself is well-positioned to pay-it-forward as a role model, inspiring future women who, given the right combination of background, encouragement, and ambition, may themselves decide to run.



Below is a complete list of the interview questions that I asked Congresswoman Susan Wild during the approximately 30-minute telephone interview on Wednesday, March 20th 2019.

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood and experiences when growing up? Would you say that you grew up in a politically socialized household, where your parents or other family members were politically engaged? Did you engage with this?
  2. If you participated in politically-centered or driven conversations at home, how did your parents behave in regards to your interest and engagement in those political topics or discussions?
  3. Did you play any competitive sports as a child?
  4. Throughout your education, do you feel as though you were exposed to political information and opportunities in your schooling experiences?
  5. Can you identity a political woman, or a woman in another career, that may have served as a role model to you? Did you have another prominent role model that was not a female?
  6. What and when is your earliest memory of wanting to run for elected office? So why now?
  7. Law is considered one of the “pipeline” professions that can often precede political candidacy, did this career experience affect your decision to run for office? Do you think this experience aided to your campaign messaging to voters? Do you feel your past profession provided an advantage for you when running?
  8. What was your experience like running for office in 2018? Was it what you expected or different? Do you think you encountered different experiences when running for office because you are a woman? Does gender matter to running for office in 2018?
  9. What is it like to be a part of the largest class of women representatives in Congress?
  10. What advice would you give young women who may be reluctant to consider running for office themselves sometime in the future?


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