Two keys to cultivating girls’ interest in running for office later in life are parental encouragement and sports. Political scientists Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox have found that college students who played varsity or junior varsity sports were much more likely to have considered running than those who did not. Women who played sports were about 25 percent more likely to exhibit political aspirations.
In high school, boys and girls report almost equal interest in politics, and they are equally likely to participate in student council. The gender gap opens up in college, when more men begin to get involved in politics on campus and to consider running one day. Both college-aged men and women report being encouraged to run for student government at nearly equal rates, but family and friends were far more likely to encourage men to consider a run for political office later in life.