All Roads Lead to Power

The Appointed and Elected Paths to Public Office for US Women

Kaitlin Sidorsky

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Speaking of cabinet appointments he’d made as governor, presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously spoke of having “whole binders full of women” to consider. The line was much mocked; and yet, Kaitlin Sidorsky suggests, it raises a point long overlooked in discussions of the gender gap in politics: many more women are appointed, rather than elected, to political office. Analyzing an original survey of political appointments at all levels of state government, All Roads Lead to Power offers an expanded, more nuanced view of women in politics. This book also questions the manner in which political ambition, particularly among women, is typically studied and understood.

“This stellar book is a major contribution to the study of women’s political participation in appointed offices in state-level executive branch positions. Essential.


“In All Roads Lead to Power, Kaitlin N. Sidorsky offers a much-needed and timely analysis of the role of women in appointed positions and how this shapes women’s contributions to the governing and policymaking processes. Thoroughly researched, the excellent mix of quantitative and qualitative findings gives the study a depth and breadth that amplifies its relevance. With increasing attention on electing more women to public office, this book fills a gap in the literature about how appointed positions in government may serve as opportunities for women to enter the political arena.”

—Lori Cox Han, professor of political science, Chapman University

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In a deep comparative analysis of appointed and elected state positions, All Roads Lead to Power highlights how the differences between being appointed or elected explain why so many more women serve in appointed offices. These women, Sidorsky finds, are not always victims of a much-cited lack of self-confidence or ambition, or of a biased political sphere. More often, they make a conscious decision to enter politics through what they believe is a far less partisan and negative entry point. Furthermore, Sidorsky’s research reveals that many women end up in political appointments—at all levels—not because they are ambitious to hold public office, but because the work connects with their personal lives or careers.

With its groundbreaking research and insights into the ambitions, recruitment, and motivations of appointed officials, Sidorsky’s work broadens our conception of political representation and alters our understanding of how and why women pursue and achieve political power.

About the Author

Kaitlin Sidorsky is assistant professor of politics at Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina. Her work has appeared in Political Research Quarterly.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series