Skip to main content Accessibility help

Gender Politics in the Lobbying Profession

  • Timothy M. LaPira (a1), Kathleen Marchetti (a2) and Herschel F. Thomas (a3)


Although political scientists have increasingly focused on the role of gender in the policy process and the characteristics of individual lobbyists, little is known about the gender politics of the government relations profession. We extend the study of professional women to the unique political context of Washington, DC, lobbying, an important form of political participation that is understudied in terms of gender. Using data from more than 25,000 individuals registered to lobby the federal government from 2008 to 2015, we show that women account for 37% of the lobbyist population in Washington, that female lobbyists are more likely to work as in-house employees than for contract lobbying firms, and that the largest Washington lobbying firms are strongly biased towards employing men. We add to these findings qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 23 lobbyists to reveal how the professional experiences of women often depend on the idiosyncrasies of lobbying employment and the political nature of their work. We conclude that the underrepresentation of women in the professional lobbying community is an underappreciated problem with broader implications for gender equality in elite political participation.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Gender Politics in the Lobbying Profession
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Gender Politics in the Lobbying Profession
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Gender Politics in the Lobbying Profession
      Available formats



Hide All

Note: Authors are listed in alphabetical order but all contributions to the project are equal. The authors wish to thank Paige Mellerio, Renzo Olivari, and Elana Turczynski at James Madison University, and Courtney Pool at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as three anonymous reviewers at Politics & Gender for their helpful comments.



Hide All
American Bar Association. 2017. “A Current Glance at Women in the Law.”
American Medical Association. 2015. “How Medical Specialties Vary by Gender.”
Anzia, Sarah F., and Berry, Christopher R.. 2011. “The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen?American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 478–93.10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00512.x
Bath, Michael G., Gayvert-Owen, Jennifer, and Nownes, Anthony J.. 2005. “Women Lobbyists: The Gender Gap and Issue Representation.” Politics & Policy 33 (1): 136–52.10.1111/j.1747-1346.2005.tb00212.x
Baumgartner, Frank R., Berry, Jeffrey M., Hojnacki, Marie, Kimball, David C., and Leech, Beth L.. 2009. Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Blake-Beard, Stacy, Bayne, Melissa, Crosby, Faye, and Muller, Carol. 2011. “Matching by Race and Gender in Mentoring Relationships: Keeping our Eyes on the Prize.” Journal of Social Issues 67 (3): 622–43.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2012. “Women as a Percent of Total Employed in Selected Occupations.”
Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2016. “American Time Use Survey.”
Burns, Nancy, Schlozman, Kay Lehman, and Verba, Sidney. 2001. The Private Roots of Public Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Catalyst. 2017. “Women in S&P 500 Companies.”
Catalyst. 2018. “Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations.”
Center for American Women and Politics. 2019. “Current Numbers.”
Cohen, Lisa, Broschak, Joseph, and Haveman, Heather. 1998. “And Then There Were More? The Effect of Organizational Sex Composition on the Hiring and Promotion of Managers.” American Sociological Review 63:711–27.
Correll, Shelley. 2001. “Gender and the Career Choice Process: The Role of Biased Self-Assessments.” American Journal of Sociology 106:16911730.
Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. 2005. “Clearing the Air: Identity Safety Moderates the Effects of Stereotype Threat on Women's Leadership Aspirations.” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 88:276–87.10.1037/0022-3514.88.2.276
Department of Labor. 2014. “Traditional and Nontraditional Occupations.”
Department of Labor. 2017. “12 Stats About Working Women.”
Dittmar, Kelly, Sanbonmatsu, Kira, and Carroll, Susan. 2018. A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen's Perspectives on Why Their Presence Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dolan, Julie. 2000. “The Senior Executive Service: Gender, Attitudes and Representative Bureaucracy.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 10 (3): 513–29.
Glass, Christy, and Cook, Alison. 2016. “Leading at the Top: Understanding Women's Challenges above the Glass Ceiling.” Leadership Quarterly 27:5163.
Gray, Virginia, and Lowery, David. 1996. The Population Ecology of Interest Representation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Heinz, John P., Laumann, Edward O., Nelson, Robert L., and Salisbury, Robert H.. 1993. The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Holman, Mirya, and Schneider, Monica. 2018. “Gender, Race and Political Ambition: How Intersectionality and Frames Influence Interest in Political Office.” Politics, Groups & Identities 6 (2):264–80.
Hoyt, Crystal, and Simon, Stefanie. 2011. “Female Leaders: Injurious or Inspiring Role Models for Women?Psychology of Women Quarterly 35 (1): 143–57.
Jeydel, Alana, and Taylor, Andrew. 2003. “Are Women Legislators Less Effective? Evidence from the U.S. House in the 103rd–105th Congress.” Political Research Quarterly 56 (1): 1927.
Keiser, Lael, Wilkins, Vicky, Meier, Kenneth, and Holland, Catherine. 2002. “Lipstick and Logarithms: Gender, Institutional Context, and Representative Bureaucracy.” American Political Science Review 96 (3): 553–64.
Kollman, Ken. 1998. Outside Lobbying: Public Opinion and Interest Group Strategies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
LaPira, Timothy M., and Thomas, Herschel F.. 2017. Revolving Door Lobbying: Public Service, Private Influence, and the Unequal Representation of Interests. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.
Lawless, Jennifer, and Fox, Richard. 2010. It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lazarus, Jeffrey, and Steigerwalt, Amy. 2018. Gendered Vulnerability: How Women Work Harder to Stay in Office. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lockwood, Penelope. 2006. “Someone Like Me Can Be Successful: Do College Students Need Same-Gender Role Models?Psychology of Women Quarterly 30:3646.
Lucas, Jennifer C., and Hyde, Mark S.. 2012. “Men and Women Lobbyists in the American States.” Social Science Quarterly 93 (2): 394414.
Marchetti, Kathleen. 2014. “Crossing the Intersection: The Representation of Disadvantaged Identities in Advocacy.” Politics, Group, & Identities 2 (1): 104–19.
Mastracci, Sharon, and Bowman, Lauren. 2015. “Public Agencies, Gendered Organizations: The Future of Gender Studies in Public Management.” Public Management Review 17 (6): 857–75.
Meier, Kenneth, and Nicholson-Crotty, Jill. 2006. “Gender, Representative Bureaucracy and Law Enforcement: The Case of Sexual Assault.” Public Administration Review 66 (6): 850–60.
Mullen, Lincoln A. 2016. “Gender: Predict Gender from Names Using Historical Data.” R package version 0.5.2.
National Association of Women Lawyers. 2018. “2018 National Association of Women Lawyers Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms.”
Nownes, Anthony J., and Freeman, Patricia K.. 1998. “Female Lobbyists: Women in the World of ‘Good Ol’ Boys.’Journal of Politics 60 (4): 1181–201.
Nguyen, Hannah-Hanh D., and Ryan, Ann Marie. 2008. “Does Stereotype Threat Affect Test Performance of Minorities and Women? A Meta-analysis of Experimental Evidence.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93 (6): 1314–34.
Pew Research Center. 2018. “Majority of Women in Male-Dominated Workplaces Say Sexual Harassment is a Problem in Their Industry.” Fact Tank.
Reskin, Barbara. 2000. “Getting It Right: Sex and Race Inequality in Work Organizations.” Annual Review of Sociology 26:707–9.
Rosenthal, Alan. 2001. The Third House: Lobbyists and Lobbying in the States, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly.
Schlozman, Kay L. 1984. “What Accent the Heavenly Chorus? Political Equality and the American Pressure System.” Journal of Politics 46:1006–32.
Schlozman, Kay L. 1990. “Representing Women in Washington: Sisterhood and Pressure Politics.” In Women, Politics, and Change, eds. Tilly, Louise A. and Gurin, Patricia. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 339–82.
Steele, Claude M., and Aronson, Joshua. 1995. “Stereotype Threat and the Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69(5): 797811.
Strolovitch, Dara. 2007. Affirmative Advocacy: Race, Class, and Gender in Interest Group Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Swers, Michele. 2002. The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Swers, Michele. 2013. Women in the Club: Gender and Policy Making in the Senate. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Thompson, Kathy H. 2002. “An Examination of the Government Relations Profession from the Perspective of Contract Lobbyists, Owners of Lobbying Firms, and Principal Corporate Lobbyists: A Comparison of Male and Female Lobbyists.” PhD diss., Virginia Commonwealth University.
Volden, Craig, Wiseman, Alan E., and Wittmer, Dana E.. 2013. “When Are Women More Effective Lawmakers Than Men?American Journal of Political Science 57 (2): 326–41.
Women in Government Relations and Bloomberg Government. 2016. “Insights from the Women in Government Relations Compensation Survey.”
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

LaPira et al. supplementary material

 Word (391 KB)
391 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed