In the wake of the Women’s March and the election of Donald Trump, more and more women are planning to run for office — as many as 13,000, the Cut reported back in February. The mothers among those women, however, will face an extra challenge. According to a new study, says the New York Times, voters assessing political candidates are more skeptical of mothers than fathers.
“In the latest examination of the double standards that continue to afflict women in politics,” the Times writes of a study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, “voters were most concerned about how married and single mothers of young children would juggle responsibilities to their office and their family, but far less worried about fathers whose wives also worked.”
The voters interviewed for the study were culled from five cities and an online survey of 1,000 likely voters, which asked them to react to made-up candidates from the following groups: “married mothers of young children, single mothers, unmarried women without children, lesbian couples with children, divorced women, and married fathers with young children.” When the study’s faux candidates released statements addressing concerns about holding office while parenting, voters’ concerns were ameliorated — but only if the candidates were fathers. Skepticism about mothers’ ability to be fully functional parents and political figures remained. And perhaps most distressingly, the voters interviewed fully realized they were upholding a double standard but persisted in their belief that “the presence of a mother was more important [than a father’s] for young children.”
The Times talked to women who felt their experiences upheld the study’s findings, such as former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift. “Being with children was seen as being distracted from doing your job,” she told the Times. “I found that part of my challenge was that whenever folks started to think about my children, it just took all the oxygen out of the room. Nobody knew all the work I was doing on educational reform or the work I did to improve the lives of foster children.”
And were married fathers of young children the most mistrusted group, after mothers of young children? Nope. The No. 2 slot fell to unmarried women without children, whom voters suspected “would not understand issues important to their lives.”