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The latest report from Alverno College sheds some light on women who hold public office and the various pathways they took to achieve success. Wisconsin Women in Public Life – Elected Officials marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Alverno’s Research Center for Women and Girls (RCWG) and honors the center’s first report from 1970, Wisconsin Women in Public Office.
Alverno’s RCWG surveyed 98 women across the state in partnership with the Strategic Research Institute of St. Norbert College. The non-partisan survey intended to reach a better understanding of the paths women take to public office and the challenges they face along the way. Studies demonstrate that if they run, women are just as likely as men to win elections, but that young women and girls are less likely to imagine themselves in office. While the landscape of women’s role in public life has changed in the past decade, this survey hopes to better understand the stories of women who are surviving, and thriving, in office today.
Some of the preliminary findings include:
- Most women who run for office do so if the possibility is presented to them by someone else or if they feel competent in fulfilling the responsibilities that accompany the job of public office.
- Participants reported considerable experience with gender-based issues in their campaigns, though the experiences were by no means universal, and reports of specific concerns varied by both the ages of the elected officials and their years of elected service.
- People who have been in office for two years or less report more concerns about topics including knowledge of issues, knowledge of how politics works, knowledge of procedures, personal or family concerns, and childcare.
- Respondents endorsed many and varied strengths and experiences to best prepare a candidate to run for office. The most frequently cited strengths included being informed on policy issues, attending government meetings, and having experience with public speaking.
- Support networks were reported as one of the primary resources needed when running for public office, whether that was support from other women, other candidates, elected officials, or their political party.
The preliminary findings will be the focus of a panel discussion on March 25, sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee and led by Dr. Lindsey Harness, project director. Additional topics include the importance of women serving in office, why women choose to serve in elected positions, and recommendations for increasing the number of women running for office in Wisconsin. The virtual event is free and will take place from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. To register visit womensfundmke.org.
The full Wisconsin Women in Public Life – Elected Officials report will be released by September, 2021.
The project is sponsored by the State of Wisconsin Women’s Council and the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee.
The Alverno College Research Center for Women and Girls is a center devoted to taking scholarly research that applies to the real world where it can inspire, transform and support initiatives that improve the lives of women and girls in Wisconsin and beyond. The center also partners with community agencies to foster discussion about important issues and identifies emerging research topics that can make a difference in women’s lives.
About Alverno College
Founded in 1887 by the School Sisters of St. Francis, Alverno College promotes the academic, personal and professional development of its students in a collaborative and inclusive environment. Undergraduate programs for women are offered in more than 60 areas of study, and graduate programs in education, nursing, community psychology, school psychology, music therapy, music and liturgy, and business are open to women and men.
A leader in higher education innovation, Alverno has earned international accolades for its highly effective ability-based, assessment-as-learning approach to education, which emphasizes hands-on experience and develops in-demand skills. The college, Wisconsin’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution, ranks among the top schools in the Midwest for its commitment to undergraduate teaching and innovation by U.S. News & World Report. For two years, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education named Alverno the country’s most inspiring college.
Based in Milwaukee, Wis., Alverno College is a four-year independent, Catholic, liberal arts college.