infogram_0_demographic_divide___ageDemographic Divide - Age

Women get into politics at an older age than men

On average, women enter elected office at an older age than men. For the 117th Congress, the average age of Members of the House was 58.4 years and of the Senate, 64.3 years. Women in Congress were slightly older with the average age of women Members of the House being 58.2 and women Senators averaging 64.7 years. 

This age imbalance is consistent at the state level as well. In 2015, the NCSL released an updated breakdown of state legislator demographics. The average age of all state legislators was 56, and the average woman legislator was two years older than the men. 

“I want women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority [can] start to count much sooner.”

-Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives 

This age divide has been correlated with having young children, as found in research from Brown University. A study from Yale Law School summarized the issue as follows:

One reason attributed to female candidates’ delayed entrance compared to male candidates is that women usually wait until their children are grown before they run for office. Women seem to delay their political careers because of family responsibilities, and are far less likely to have young children in office.

The age gap between men and women in office means that young women, especially those with young children, are less represented in our government than young men. Additionally, for the women in office themselves, starting their political careers later means that they will have less time in office to make meaningful change.

In order to lead effectively, women must have equal access to leadership positions. A delayed start can hurt their ability to climb the leadership ladder and become successful policy-makers.

Structural reforms that both encourage young women to run for office and also support them while in office are crucial to fixing this imbalance.