"Keys To Elected Office" Tip-Sheet For Female Politicians Is Depressing And Honest

Guess what's fun about being a female candidate for office? Nothing. A new study from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation shows women candidates have to be "likeable" and dress up to get voters to support them come election day. The Foundation's new Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide to Women is annoying at first glance, but it reflects real research on what pragmatic women need to do to get elected in the U.S. in the year 2014. Spoiler alert: You're not gonna like what it has to say and what that reflects about the country.

Take the organization's point on voter's comfort with women in office, for example.

Voters are more accustomed to seeing women as part of a deliberative body, such as the legislature. When a woman is running to be CEO of her state, voters need more evidence to believe she is prepared to do the job than they do for a man.

Basically, voters have a bias toward thinking women are more eligible for "teamwork" than for leadership positions. And that's bad news for women running for executive positions. When men put stuff on their résumé — say experience as a state treasurer — voters generally took the positions at face value and it added to their perception of the candidate as qualified. When women did the same, it was not enough to make them seem qualified, the Foundation suggests.

Women are also judged on their families (or lack thereof) and the way they look.

...This woman candidate appeals to voters: a well-educated, married, 55-year-old with previous experience in office.

Good news for Hillary Clinton, minus the 55-year-old part. (And hence the controversy over her new title of grandmother. Remember all those grandkids Mitt Romney has running around? No? Well, he has like 70.)

Women need to use more subtle "power-dressing." Go beyond the pantsuit, ladies! This, again, is a trait men basically never have to worry about. The guide urges women candidates to hire a personal stylist if they need one. But here are some tips in the meantime: Wear "colorful jackets over sheath dresses and pants" and "cultivate a collection of go-to outfits that convey power and are also practical."

But women do have some advantages over men, the guide notes.

Both Democratic and Republican women have an advantage over a male candidate on representing voters’ interests, having the right priorities, being honest and ethical, solving problems, working across party lines to get results, and being warm and likeable.

The Foundation should be commended for researching how to make women candidates succeed, but that doesn't stop us from cringing at these tips. Why should a woman have to work so much harder to get elected into office than a man? Why don't voters trust women's résumés? These are questions worth asking. But while we're figuring that out, ladies, I guess we'll have to wear sheath dresses or something. Sigh.