Kelly Dittmar, Ph.D.

Rutgers University

Country: United States (New Jersey)

About Me:

Kelly Dittmar is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. She is the co-author of A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Representation Matters (Oxford University Press, 2018) (with Kira Sanbonmatsu and Susan J. Carroll) and author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns (Temple University Press, 2015). Dittmar’s research focuses on gender and American political institutions. Dittmar was an American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellow from 2011 to 2012. At CAWP, she manages national research projects, helps to develop and implement CAWP's research agenda, and contributes to CAWP reports, publications, and analyses. She also works with CAWP's programs for women's public leadership and has been an expert source and commentator for media outlets including MSNBCNPRPBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Dittmar earned her B.A. from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI and her Ph.D. from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Research Interests

Gender and Politics

American Presidency And Executive Politics

Legislative Politics

Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Gendered Institutions

Legislative Staff


Countries of Interest

United States


Journal Articles:

(2019) Council Size Matters: Filling Blanks in Women’s Municipal Representation in New Jersey, State and Local Government Review

This article “goes local” to investigate the representation of women on city councils, seeking explanations for the variation in women’s descriptive representation at the municipal level. Using the State of New Jersey (NJ) as a case, it is asked: what explains why women fare electorally better in some NJ municipalities than in others? More specifically, what explains “blanks”—or councils on which women are absent—in women’s representation in local politics? It is demonstrated that council size is a significant predictor of women’s presence or absence, but not percentage representation, on city councils.

Books Written:

(2018) A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen's Perspectives on Why Their Presence Matters, Oxford University Press

The presence of women in Congress is at an all-time high -- approximately one of every five members is female -- and record numbers of women are running for public office for the 2018 midterms. At the same time, Congress is more polarized than ever, and little research exists on how women in Congress view their experiences and contributions to American politics today. Drawing on personal interviews with over three-quarters of the women serving in the 114th Congress (2015-17), the authors analyze how these women navigate today's stark partisan divisions, and whether they feel effective in their jobs. Through first-person perspectives, A Seat at the Table looks at what motivates these women's legislative priorities and behavior, details the ways in which women experience service within a male-dominated institution, and highlights why it matters that women sit in the nation's federal legislative chambers. It describes the strategies women employ to overcome any challenges they confront as well as the opportunities available to them. The book examines how gender interacts with political party, race and ethnicity, seniority, chamber, and district characteristics to shape women's representational influence and behavior, finding that party and race/ethnicity are the two most complicating factors to a singular narrative of women's congressional representation. While congresswomen's perspectives, experiences, and influence are neither uniform nor interchangeable, they strongly believe their presence matters in myriad ways, affecting congressional culture, priorities, processes, debates, and outcomes.

(2015) Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns, Temple University Press

From the presidential level down, men and women who run for political office confront different electoral realities. In her probing study, Navigating Gendered Terrain, Kelly Dittmar investigates not only how gender influences the campaign strategy and behavior of candidates today but also how candidates’ strategic and tactical decisions can influence the gendered nature of campaign institutions. Navigating Gendered Terrain addresses how gender is used to shape the way campaigns are waged by influencing insider perceptions of and decisions about effective campaign messages, images, and tactics within party and political contexts. Through a survey of political consultants and interviews with candidates and campaign practitioners, Dittmar analyzes how professional perceptions of voters’ gender stereotypes matter prior to Election Day and how different expectations for female and male candidates inform decisions about candidate presentation and campaign strategy. Closing with a feminist interpretation of women as candidates, Dittmar explains that the unintended outcomes of political campaigns include their potential to reinforce or disrupt prevailing ideas about gender and candidacy.

Book Chapters:

(2018) Republican Women in the 2016 Election: Progress or Same Old Patterns?, ABC CLIO

Assesses Republican women's 2016 candidacies, pointing to both the dearth of Republican women candidates and the challenges they confront in the Trump era.

(2018) Disrupting Masculine Dominance? Women as Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates, Cambridge University Press

Analyzes the dominance of masculinity in presidential politics, specifically evaluating gender dynamics in the 2016 presidential election.


(2019) Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States, Oxford Bibliographies

Provides annotated bibliography of key publications in the area of gender and electoral politics in the United States.

(2017) Finding Gender in Election 2016: Lessons from Presidential Gender Watch, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

In April 2015, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation (BLFF) and the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) launched Presidential Gender Watch 2016, a project to track, analyze, and illuminate gender dynamics in the 2016 presidential election. With the help of expert scholars and practitioners, Presidential Gender Watch worked for 21 months to further public understanding of how gender influences candidate strategy, voter engagement and expectations, media coverage, and electoral outcomes in campaigns for the nation’s highest executive office. On social media, in written analyses, and via public presentations, we raised questions, suggested answers, and sought to complicate popular discussions about gender’s role in the presidential race by drawing upon the wealth of research and expertise that could best inform the gender dialogue on presidential politics.

(2017) Representation Matters: Women in the U.S. Congress, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

We find in our research—based on interviews with 83 of the 108 women who served as Senators, Representatives, and Delegates— that the women on both sides of the aisle in the 114th Congress very much believe that their presence and their voices mattered, and they provided considerable evidence of achievements despite the overall environment of gridlock and party polarization in which they operated. They shared example after example of working on bipartisan legislation with other members of Congress, both women and men. A majority of the women we interviewed believe that women are more likely than their male counterparts to work across party lines. Large numbers of congresswomen express the belief that women are more consensual and collaborative than their male colleagues, and in interview after interview— in different ways using different words—they explained that women are more results-oriented, more likely to emphasize achievement over ego, and more concerned with achieving policy outcomes rather than receiving publicity or credit. Our interviews revealed that a shared work style, common experiences as women, and personal relationships forged in single-sex spaces within Congress enable women to work together across party lines. Women of color—who constituted a record number of members in the 114th Congress—emphasized the significance of their presence in Congress and the imperative of including the perspectives of women of color and minority communities more generally in the policymaking process.

(2015) Voices. Votes. Leadership. The Status of Black Women in American Politics 2015, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

This comprehensive report provides a historical outline of Black women’s struggle for political representation. It discusses the current landscape of political leadership for Black women across the country and across levels of office, their growing political influence, and the outlook for Black women's participation in the 2016 elections. It demonstrates the need for greater engagement, recruitment, and inclusion of Black women in politics and government.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2019) MSNBC

"Record-breaking wins by female candidates in 2018 inspiring more to run"

(2018) CBS Sunday Morning

Looking at 2018's "Pink Wave" - and an uphill run for women

(2018) CNN

“For the First Time, More than 100 Women Will Serve in the House"

(2017) CTV News

Trump Lashes Out at the Press

(2016) PBS NewsHour

What the 'Women's Vote' Means in 2016

(2016) MSNBC

Ivanka Trump Makes Bid for Women

(2016) CBC

Hillary Makes History

(2016) CNN International

The Gender Gap

(2016) ABC-Australia

Donald Trump and Women

(2016) BBC World News

Donald Trump/Megyn Kelly Interview

(2014) MSNBC

What Happens When Women Run

(2014) MSNBC

Why Does GOP Struggle to Elect Women?

Radio Appearances:

(2019) NPR

Male Democratic Candidates Will Have To Answer Gender Role Questions In 2020 Race

(2018) WHYY - The WHY

It’s official: Pennsylvania will send a record-setting four women to Congress next year, up from the current total of zero. How does this surge compare to the last “Year of the Woman” in 1992? On this episode of The Why, Kelly Dittmar with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers walks us through the history of women running for office. And we’ll eavesdrop on election night in the WHYY newsroom.

(2017) BBC Woman's Hour

Women's Marches Worldwide

(2017) Minnesota Public Radio

Does Franken's resignation signal a change in harassment culture?

(2017) WHYY

Trump Twitter Fit

(2017) KNPR

Nevada Near Top In Number of Women in the Legislature

(2016) WHYY

Live Pre-Election Special

(2016) NPR

Clinton to Deliver Economic Speech in Detroit

(2016) NPR

Could Gender be the Decisive Factor in Trump-Clinton Matchup?

(2016) BBC Woman's Hour

Newspaper Quotes:

(2017) New York Times

Women Line Up to Run for Office, Harnessing Their Outrage at Trump

(2017) New York Times

Trump’s Combative Denials Again Draw Him Into the Sexual Harassment Debate

(2016) New York Times

Will Women Still Want to Run?


(2018) Crooked Media - The Wildnerness Podcast

What are the unique challenges facing women in politics?