Women and Public Policy Program Seminar Series

Out of the Running? Gender and Race Differences in Political Ambition among HKS and Other Elite Millennials with Shauna Shames

March 23, 2018

Millennials are often publically criticized for being apathetic about the American political process and their lack of interest in political careers. But what do millennials themselves have to say about the prospect of holding political office? Are they as uninterested in political issues and the future of the American political system as the media suggests? What do we learn by looking at both gender and racial groups’ political ambition comparatively?

In this seminar, Shauna Shames goes directly to the source and draws from extensive research, including over 50 interviews and an extensive survey (n=760), with graduate students in elite institutions that have historically been a direct link for their graduates into state or federal elected office: Harvard Law, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Boston’s Suffolk University Law School. Shauna, herself a young graduate of Harvard University, suggests that millennials are not uninterested; rather, they don’t believe that a career in politics is the best way to create change. Millennials view the system as corrupt or inefficient and are particularly skeptical about the fundraising, frenzied media attention, and loss of privacy that have become staples of the American electoral process. They are clear about their desire to make a difference in the world but feel that the “broken” political system is not the best way to do so—a belief held particularly by millennial women and women of color.

Shauna Shames, Assistant Professor, Political Science Department, Rutgers University-Camden

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