A new study by political science scholars has found one reason why women are less likely to run for political office - they will volunteer to lead but don't like competing to do so. 

Prior claims have been that more women lack the confidence to seek and hold office so University of Pittsburgh associate Professors of Political Science Kristin Kanthak and Jonathan Woon enlisted 350 undergraduate college students to participate in laboratory experiments which Kanthak said appeared to show women are more "election averse" than men.

The work was conducted in three phases in the Pittsburgh Experimental Economics Lab. In the first phase, men and women were divided into random groups and given a task of adding up numbers. Participants solved as many addition problems as they wanted in a limited time and were paid for correct answers. 

In the second phase, participants were asked if they were willing to represent the group. One volunteer was randomly selected, and everyone repeated the addition task. That time, participants earned 2/3 of their money through the addition problems answered correctly by their group leader and 1/3 through their own correctly answered questions. In that scenario, Kanthak and Woon said, men and women each volunteered to lead the group equally--about 80 percent of the time.

In the final phase of the experiment, the participants were asked to declare whether they wanted to be elected as the leader. In that case, they were told to run a short campaign and give a message to the group. Kanthak and Woon found that when a competitive election process was introduced, 78 percent of men chose to run, but only 60 percent of women did.

"We wanted to control the incentives potential candidates face and place men and women with similar qualifications, ambitions, and political environments alongside one another and see if they still made the same decisions to put themselves out there as a candidate. We wanted to level the playing field, and we were able to do that by taking our questions into a lab environment," Kanthak said.

"We also found that election aversion persists with variations in the electoral environment, disappearing only when campaigns are both costless and completely truthful."

 Article: "Women Don't Run? Election Aversion and Candidate Entry" Dec. 2 American Journal of Political Science.
Source: University of Pittsburgh