Diverse Women in Politics: Kelly Dittmar

Kelly Dittmar is the Director of Research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She explains why diversity among women serving in public office enhances our democracy, and how we can support more women to run and win elections.

Kelly Dittmar is the Director of Research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She explains why diversity among women serving in public office enhances our democracy, and how we can support more women to run and win elections.

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Motivations and Perspectives

The goal of promoting women to run for office is not simply to achieve parity in Congress or in State legislatures. Rather, it should be to recognize that women offer a variety of perspectives and lived experiences that men lack. In addition, women have faced more barriers than men to be elected and are generally more motivated to get things done. 

Confronting Our Biases

Toughness, experience in national security, and negotiating tactics are often thought of as ideal leadership qualities, which are viewed as inherently male characteristics. Although female leaders do often possess these skills, championing women also means that we need to confront such biases and value traits like compassion, cooperation, and consensus building skills.

Women’s Interests

All women, like all men, are motivated by a large number of factors in forming political opinions. Our senses of identity are not solely based on gender, which is why there is no such thing as the “women’s agenda.” Women see the world through racial, social, and class identities, which often conflict with and supersede gender identity. However, these factors do intertwine with gender in public policy decisions.

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Kelly Dittmar is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. At CAWP, she manages national research projects, helps to develop and implement CAWP’s research agenda, and contributes to CAWP reports, publications, and analyses. She also works with CAWP’s programs for women’s public leadership and has been an expert source and commentator for media outlets including MSNBC, NPR, PBS, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

She is the co-author of A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Representation Matters and author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns. Dittmar’s research focuses on gender and American political institutions.

Dittmar was an American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellow from 2011 to 2012. Dittmar earned her B.A. from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI and her Ph.D. from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

You can follow her on Twitter @kdittmar.

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