All Roads Lead to Power

The Appointed and Elected Paths to Public Office for US Women

Kaitlin Sidorsky

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.

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.

“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

“In this fascinating and well-researched book, Kaitlin Sidorsky begins to fill a significant gap in our knowledge by focusing on the highly understudied subject of women who serve in appointed office. Sidorsky convincingly demonstrates through surveys and interviews that many of the women who hold government appointments define what they do as nonpolitical, demonstrating a distaste for elections and partisan pursuits, viewing the positions they hold as steps in their professional careers, and insisting that they do not want to be involved in politics. Her book raises important questions and challenges for scholars and activists concerned about increasing womens involvement and influence in American politics.”

—Susan J. Carroll, coauthor of A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Presence Matters

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