Good Reasons to Run

Women and Political Candidacy

Edited by Shauna L. Shames, Rachel I. Bernhard, Mirya R. Holman, and Dawn Langan Teele
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, 2020
Mirya Holman, recipient Erika Fairchild Award from the Southern Political Science Association's Women's Caucus, 2022
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1956-9
Publication: May 20

HC: $109.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1955-2
Publication: May 20

Ebook: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1957-6
Publication: May 20

324 pages
6 x 9
8 tables, 32 figures, 2 maps

How and why women run for office

Read the Introduction (pdf).


After the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, a large cohort of women emerged to run for office. Their efforts changed the landscape of candidates and representation. However, women are still far less likely than men to seek elective office, and face biases and obstacles in campaigns. (Women running for Congress make twice as many phone calls as men to raise the same contributions.)

The editors and contributors to Good Reasons to Run, a mix of scholars and practitioners, examine the reasons why women run—and do not run—for political office. They focus on the opportunities, policies, and structures that promote women’s candidacies. How do nonprofits help recruit and finance women as candidates? And what role does money play in women’s campaigns?

The essays in Good Reasons to Run ask not just who wants to run, but how to activate and encourage such ambition among a larger population of potential female candidates while also increasing the diversity of women running for office.

Contributors: Alejandra Gimenez Aldridge, Georgia Anderson-Nilsson, Chris W. Bonneau, Nadia E. Brown, Rebecca E. Deen, Kesicia Dickinson, Kelly Dittmar, Pearl K. Dowe, Martha C. Johnson, Kristin Kanthak, Christopher F. Karpowitz, Jaclyn J. Kettler, Rebecca Kreitzer, Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, J. Quinn Monson, Malliga Och, Karen O’Connor, Heather L. Ondercin, Tracy Osborn, Jennifer M. Piscopo, Jessica Robinson Preece, Kira Sanbonmatsu, Monica C. Schneider, Jamil Scott, Beth Anne Shelton, Rachel Silbermann, Jennie Sweet-Cushman, Michele L. Swers, Sue Thomas, Danielle M. Thomsen, Catherine Wineinger, Alixandra B. Yanus, and the editors.


"(T)he editors assemble a talented group of scholars producing some timely insights into the decision calculus of potential female candidates pondering a run for office.... (A) comprehensive investigation of the topic.... Any close observers of gender in politics should consult this edited volume if they seek to keep up to date on the cutting edge findings regarding what factors will increase female representation in politics. Shames, Bernhard, Holman, and Teele have provided the field a tremendous service by compiling all this crucial evidence in a single comprehensive work. Anyone who reads it will come away with more extensive knowledge about how the electoral playing field can be leveled in order to facilitate gender equality."
Women, Politics, & Policy

"Starting from the premise that more women could and should run for political office, this collection of essays makes a wide-ranging attempt to understand the role, ambition, and strategies of potential female candidates… (T)he analyses provide a nuanced set of arguments about context, strategies, and resources…. (T)he book's treatment is evenhanded, looking at strategies and behavior of both Republicans and Democrats. This collection will be an excellent resource for courses on women and electoral politics…. Summing Up: Highly recommended."

"Good Reasons to Run provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of women’s political candidacy from an impressive collection of rising and established gender scholars.... (It) will be of tremendous interest and value to anyone wishing to better understand women’s political candidacy and the challenges and opportunities they will encounter in future election cycles.... The volume contributes meaningfully to our understanding of political candidacy and gender and demonstrates the value of asking relevant questions about the factors that give women a good reason to run for office."
Politics and Gender

" (T)his book charts a new path for research on women’s political representation. Empirically, the breadth of the book is unparalleled. The authors assemble an excellent team of scholars to investigate this multifaceted research program from a number of different perspectives and approaches.... Good Reasons to Run —a must read for scholars in the field—is an agenda setting volume that has already inspired multiple publications and conversations around the central themes developed in the book. The authors provide keen insights into how we can cultivate more diverse pools of candidates for future U.S. elections."
Gender and Society

How might more women in the United States run for and win political office? In this highly accessible and well-integrated edited volume, leading scholars in the field of women in politics provide answers. Drawing on original data, they explain how women can overcome obstacles to their candidacy and how women’s political ambition can be activated by taking into account race, class, and party affiliation. Good Reasons to Run also uncovers the new role that nonprofit organizations are playing in preparing women for public office and analyzes how money matters for women candidates. The insightful findings in this volume make it essential reading for anyone who believes that more women in politics is critical for our democratic future.
Denise M. Walsh, University of Virginia

“Good Reasons to Run fills a gap in the gender and politics literature by offering a comprehensive examination of women’s political ambition and the effectiveness of programs designed to recruit, train, and encourage female candidates to run for public office. The distinguished scholars contributing to this volume provide timely and essential guidance from an academic and practical perspective for organizations offering such programs as well as women who might consider a run for political office.
Dianne Bystrom, Director Emerita, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University

"The volume offers a vast amount of new knowledge, in five key areas, for advancing the literature on women’s political ambition, and it points to specific implications for advocates to implement. This book is commendable for several reasons, in addition to the high-quality chapters, not least of which is that the editors’ expert interweaving of chapters and their section introductions make Good Reasons to Ru n an excellent contemporary handbook on women’s political ambition."
Perspective on Politics

Table of Contents


Part I: Who Runs?
1. What If Women Won’t Run? Exploring Gender Gaps in Elite Political Ambition | Karen O’Connor and Alixandra B. Yanus
2. Who Runs? Data from Women Trained as Candidates | Rachel I. Bernhard, Shauna L. Shames, Rachel Silbermann, and Dawn Langan Teele
3. Political Ambition, Structural Obstacles, and the Fate of Republican Women | Malliga Och
4. Who Is Stacey Abrams? An Examination of Gender and Race Dynamics in State-Level Candidacy | Jamil Scott, Kesicia Dickinson, and Pearl K. Dowe

Part II: Why Run?
5. Ambition for Office: Women and Policy-making | Sue Thomas and Catherine Wineinger
6. From Civic Mindedness to Electoral Politics: Citizen Advisory Committees and the Decision to Run for School Board | Rebecca E. Deen and Beth Anne Shelton
7. Youth National Service and Women’s Political Ambition: The Case of Teach For America | Cecilia Hyunjung Mo and Georgia Anderson-Nilsson

Part III: Why Not Run?
8. The Uneven Geography of Candidate Emergence: How the Expectation of Winning Influences Candidate Emergence | Heather L. Ondercin
9. How Political Parties Can Diversify Their Leadership | Alejandra Gimenez Aldridge, Christopher F. Karpowitz, J. Quin Monson, and Jessica Robinson Preece
10. Late to the Party: Black Women’s Inconsistent Support from Political Parties | Nadia E. Brown and Pearl K. Dowe
11. Women’s Political Ambition and the 2016 Election | Chris W. Bonneau and Kristin Kanthak

Part IV: How Nonprofits Help Women Run for Office
12. Women Candidate Recruitment Groups in the States | Rebecca Kreitzer and Tracy Osborn
13. Are You Ready to Run.? Campaign Trainings and Women’s Candidacies in New Jersey | Kira Sanbonmatsu and Kelly Dittmar
14. Pieces of Women’s Political Ambition Puzzle: Changing Perceptions of a Political Career with Campaign Training | Monica C. Schneider and Jennie Sweet-Cushman
15. Women Running in the World: Candidate Training Programs in Comparative Perspective | Jennifer M. Piscopo

Part V: The Special Role of Money
16. Building a Campaign Donor Network: How Candidate Gender and Partisanship Impact the Campaign Money Chase | Michele L. Swers and Danielle M. Thomsen
17. Training Women to Run in an African Democracy: The Case of Benin | Martha C. Johnson
18. Paying It Forward: Candidate Contributions and Support for Diverse Candidates | Jaclyn J. Kettler
Conclusion: A Reason and a Season to Run


About the Author(s)

Shauna L. Shames is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Gender Studies at Rutgers University-Camden. She is the author of Out of the Running: Why Millennials Reject Political Careers and Why It Matters; co-author of Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Politics; and co-editor of The Right Women: Republican Party Activists, Candidates, and Legislators.

Rachel I. Bernhard is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis.

Mirya R. Holman is an Associate Professor of Political Science, Tulane University and the author of Women in Politics in the American City (Temple).

Dawn Langan Teele is the Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the editor of Field Experiments and Their Critics: Essays on the Uses and Abuses of Experiments in the Social Sciences and author of Forging the Franchise: The Political Origins of the Women’s Vote.