Where da women?

Women candidates for public office such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Hillary Clinton certainly get plenty of attention when running, but a new study shows a continuing gender gap in American politics when it comes to women seeking and holding office.

Based on a survey of 4,000 lawyers, activists, business leaders and educators, the study, "Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics," says the gap in interest in running for office remains about the same as a decade ago.

Conducted by Jennifer Lewis, of American University's School of Public Affairs, and Richard Fox, of Loyola Marymount University, the study says there are seven main reasons why:

1. Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates.

2. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s candidacies aggravated women’s perceptions of gender bias in the electoral arena.

3. Women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.

4. Female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident, and more risk averse than their male counterparts.

5. Women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns.

6. Women are less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office – from anyone.

7. Women are still responsible for the majority of childcare and household tasks.

Pennsylvania, of course, is among states with the lowest participation of women. According to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, for example, the state ranks 42nd in the proportion of women in the legislature.

I've often said and written that in decades covering politics and government my experience is women in office tend to be far more interested and engaged in actual public service while men in office tend to be far more interested in their own advancement and/or protecting their incumbency.

And while there are certainly exceptions to this on both sides of the gender gap, there's no question that politics is mostly a good old boys club.

But since most of the reasons cited in the "Men Rule" study are tied to womens' perceptions of themselves and the process, maybe it's time more women -- excuse the expression -- man up.

Not only would democracy be better served by legislative bodies more representative of the population, it's a virtual certainty more women would reduce government gridlock which, as we all know, is largely the result of testoserone-driven, whose-is-bigger, egomaniacal posturing.

So I suggest that more women get out there and GRRRR.