Catt Center students research women’s campaign experience in Iowa

CATEGORIES: March 2022, Voices

The Catt Center’s team of undergraduate researchers has entered the second phase of their research project on Iowa women’s experience as political candidates. This phase of the project consists of interviews with women who have run for office in Iowa.

The team formed in the spring semester of 2020, and since that time six students have participated in the multi-year project. Currently three students — Rylie Smith, Sarah Hannon and Kathryn Burns — are conducting interviews. Dr. Kelly Winfrey, coordinator of research and outreach at the Catt Center, and Ph.D. candidate Carrie Ann Johnson lead the program.

The interview portion of the study builds on survey data the team collected in the 2020-2021 school year. The survey explored men’s and women’s experiences running for political office, including their campaign experience, why they chose to run for office, perceptions of their qualifications and skills, encouragement they received, and sexism they experienced or witnessed. The team was able to present their initial results at the Ready to Run® Iowa campaign training program in April 2021.

Sarah Hannon, senior in finance with a minor in political science, explained how working on the research team has prepared her for life after college. “Participating in this research will help me feel more confident in my abilities after I have graduated from Iowa State University. Throughout the process of brainstorming, interviewing and conducting analysis, I have developed skills that will be very helpful in the future as a business professional.”

The interviews are focused on women’s campaign and political experiences. Typically, these interviews last about 30 minutes and are conducted by Zoom or phone. The interviews are then transcribed, with all identifying information removed, and analyzed for common themes.

Rylie Smith, senior in political science and psychology, spoke about the importance this research has: “The research our team does will help explain the barriers that keep women from elected offices.” She continued to say, “Once we can explain this, we can help break down these walls and create a more equal, inclusive and diverse political sphere.”

The research team is still looking for women who have run for political office to participate in their interviews. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to Rylie Smith,, for more information.