In spite of decades of women’s political battles, there is a persistent underrepresentation of women in legislative bodies, with only 23.8% in 2018. In this chapter, we discuss theories and empirical studies that have explored what kind of obstacles female politicians are more likely to meet and how they cope with them, when they face more hurdles, and why we need more women elected to political office. Furthermore, we report the results of several studies, which have involved 233 Italian national politicians (46% females), 425 local politicians (56% females), 626 political activists (44% females), and 3249 ordinary citizens (49% females). Results of these studies show that female politicians face mainly external obstacles as the gatekeeping theory maintains. Women find obstacles all along their political career supporting labyrinth hypotheses. Females at all levels of political involvement scored higher in self-transcendence values that emphasize concern for the welfare of others, partially confirming the politics of presence theory. Female politicians were also more open to change and less conservation oriented than their male colleagues. Our findings in general support ethical struggles for a more balanced gender representation.
Part of the book: Elections