HomeLearning CenterThe Dangers of Being a Woman In Politics: How Gen Z Is Responding

The Dangers of Being a Woman In Politics: How Gen Z Is Responding

Originally published by Jamie Ballard and Annabel Iwegbue for Cosmopolitan

The world—and Cosmopolitan—has given a lot of air time to the fact that we need more women in office, and major efforts to get them there are working: An unprecedented number of women have now been elected to national, state, and local positions. For the most part, though, that’s where the story has stopped. But what about what happens next—what’s it like for these women once they actually start their jobs? Sure, we as voters can get them elected, but are we doing enough to make them successful?

Early last year, Cosmopolitan, in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, set out to answer this question for How to Succeed in Office, our project that details the hurdles elected women face—and how everyone should be invested in getting them the help they need. After months of reporting, we were ready to ask another big question: How do you feel about all this? So in January 2024, we commissioned a nationally representative survey of more than 2,100 people ages 18 and older to understand how American women think about their counterparts in political positions. And you had…a lot to say.

For starters, pretty much everyone thinks the entire country would be better off if more women held office. And nearly 9 in 10 of you agree that it’s important for your own lives that elected women are able to do their jobs well. (The groups most likely to feel this way are LGBTQ+ women at 96 percent, and millennial women at 91 percent.) Honestly, given the state of our post-Dobbs world, this tracks. (Cue: a not-so-subtle reminder to VOTE this fall, even if things feel bleak.)

Another result that tracks for any woman living pretty much anywhere these days: The most significant barrier to success you think elected women face is sexism. Women of color feel strongly on this front (54 percent would expect to face sexism in an elected job), and Black women in particular are more likely than white women (46 versus 31 percent) to believe it’s very challenging for women in office to be successful at their jobs, period. Black women (59 percent) are also more likely than Hispanic women (47 percent) and white women (45 percent) to say female politicians are criticized much more often than male ones are by their peers.

More surprising are responses that show a notable divide in how different generations are wrapping their heads around the tough jobs elected women have—as well as responses that illustrate a pretty damn deep understanding of a political world that can be outright hostile to women. Take a look at some highlights right here:

Gen Z Can See the Threats Clearly

The generation that’s been online since day one is all too familiar with the way the world treats women in power—and it knows just how terrifying that can be, especially after the recent surge in violent harassment against elected officials.

Forty percent of Gen Z women (compared with 25 percent of boomer women and 30 percent of both Gen X and millennial women) say threats to physical safety are a problem for women in local elected office. Thirty-six percent (compared with 21 percent of boomers and about 29 percent of both Gen X and millennials) say the same about threats to psychological safety. And nearly 50 percent of Gen Z women, more than any other generation, think that protections against these threats would better help women in office succeed.

Back to News