In some respects the problem is confusing. Conservatives believe in biological gender differences. Many female conservatives like myself point to natural sex differences to explain varying outcomes in life: women generally prefer the humanities, while men favor hard sciences; female doctors tend to be pediatricians, while male doctors more often become surgeons; women prefer veterinary school, while men prefer business school. When it comes to politics, however, conservatives brush gender differences aside. In the political sphere, gender disappears and it’s just the policies that matter.
Certainly, women should not be defined solely by their gender – but it is part of our identity. And our shared experiences as women – as wives, mothers, caretakers – give us unique perspective about our families, communities, and the nation. And, just as important, voters perceive female candidates differently. Consider if Republicans had more women to talk about educational freedom and competition. Or more female candidates who could empathize with working moms, but also caution against a paid leave entitlement program that could jeopardize women’s progress. What if there were more women lawmakers who could speak about women as health care consumers and introduce market-based reforms such as giving individuals who purchase insurance the same tax benefits as businesses? What’s more, because voters perceive female candidates as less conservative, all else being equal, conservative women are more likely to win in swing districts than conservative men.