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2006: Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling

(l-r) Liz Smith, Professor of Political Science at Furman and Barbara Palmer

Women and Politics Series

Barbara Palmer
Assistant Professor at American University's Department of Government

The Riley Institute at Furman, in partnership with the Department of Political Science, hosted Dr. Barbara Palmer, Assistant Professor at American University's Department of Government, as part of the Riley Institute's Women and Politics series. Palmer delivered an address on "Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling: Women and Congressional Elections" Monday, October 23, 2006 in Burgiss Theater in the University Center. Over 200 student and community members attended the event.

Palmer is an expert on women and congressional elections. She is the co-author of Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling, with Dennis Simon of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The book explores how incumbency and redistricting influence the success of women candidates. One of the general themes is that over time, drawing districts to protect incumbents has had the unintended consequence of helping Democratic women get elected, while making it more difficult for Republican women to win their primaries. In fact, out of 435 House districts, over 150 are unlikely to ever elect a woman of either party.

As a professor at American University, Palmer has given invited talks to a wide variety of groups across the country on the integration of women into Congress and has published several articles in academic journals such as the American Political Science Review and Gender and Politics. She has taught courses on women & politics, American politics, and public law. In the spring of 2005, she received the Alice Paul Award for her commitment to women’s issues and mentoring young women.

Palmer is also the Political Director of WUFPAC, Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, a nonpartisan organization that encourages young women to get involved in politics and provides financial support to women under forty years old who are running for Congress. WUFPAC has been featured in CQ Weekly, Glamour Magazine, and on the PBS show, To the Contrary.

Before coming to Washington, Palmer was an Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She was a recipient of the H.O.P.E. teaching award and was nominated twice for the Phi Beta Kappa Perrine Prize, the highest teaching honor at SMU usually given only to the most senior faculty. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science in 1997 from the University of Minnesota.