Call for Research Proposals
Identifying and Addressing Barriers and Opportunities to Women’s Political Power

For nearly five decades, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University has been committed to promoting greater knowledge and understanding about the role of women in American politics, enhancing women's influence in public life, and expanding the diversity of women in politics and government. While we have celebrated much progress over the past 50 years, women remain significantly underrepresented across all levels of U.S. politics and continue to confront barriers distinct from men. CAWP tracks data and conducts scholarly research about women’s political participation in the United States to better understand and address these dynamics. We are also committed to amplifying and promoting translation of others’ gender and politics research to yield progress for women in politics.

As part of this effort, CAWP will offer both small and large research grants to investigate and illuminate barriers and opportunities to increasing women’s political power in the United States. This request for proposals is supported by the generosity and commitment of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates.

Preference will be given to research proposals that:

  • Advance our understanding of the distinct realities that women of color navigate in U.S. politics;
  • Identify and assess steps for translating research into action to increase women’s political power, including effective interventions to disrupt gender and/or intersectional biases in U.S. political institutions;
  • Challenge one-size-fits-all assessments of barriers or opportunities to women in U.S. politics; and
  • Expand the sites for research focus to non-electoral positions of political power and/or to sub-national levels of political representation.

While our preference is for research proposals related to one or more of the priority areas and related questions outlined below, researchers are welcome to propose research projects that fall outside, but are related to, these areas.

CAWP Regrants

Priority Areas

Priority 1: Leading with Intersectionality  
While much scholarship and practice focuses on identifying and addressing barriers and opportunities to women’s political power, there remains a dearth of work that adopts and integrates intersectionality as a key framework for research and analysis. We seek proposals that both expand and enrich existing scholarship to interrogate the following questions with particular attention to the distinct realities for Black women, Latinas, Asian Pacific Islander women, and Native American women.

  • In what ways do media, money, and/or parties act as help or hindrance to women candidate emergence and/or success?
  • What are the effects of gender, race, and party on candidate evaluation? How do (or should) differences in candidate evaluation influence electoral strategy and/or success?
  • What are the social, political, policy, structural, and/or institutional effects of gender and racial (in)equality in the distribution of political power in U.S. politics?

Priority 2: Expanding Research Focus
We seek research proposals that address neglected barriers to and opportunities for women’s political power in the United States. More specifically:

  • What are the levels of, barriers to, and influence of women’s political power in unelected roles (e.g. staff, practitioners, appointees, activists) in U.S. politics? How might political power be expanded for women in and through these roles?
  • What are the levels of, barriers to, and influence of women’s political power in local offices across the U.S.?
  • What evidence exists for increasing women’s political power by changing rules and/or processes in U.S. political institutions? How do these changes affect women of different groups (e.g. racial/ethnic, age, party, sexual orientation, gender identity), at different levels, and in different political roles?
  • How does the online harassment of women candidates and elected officials harm women's political involvement? What can be done to combat this harassment?

Priority 3: Meeting the Moment
There is no separating the U.S. political environment from the current cultural, economic, and health crises. Research must both meet and assess this moment, with specific attention to how the Covid-19 pandemic and today’s reckoning with systemic racism shape women’s political engagement and opportunities for increasing political power and influence. Research proposals might address the following sets of questions.

  • Covid-19 and the ensuing economic crisis have had a disproportionate impact on women with respect to job losses and rise in parenting responsibilities and domestic labor. How will these crises affect women's political participation – as voters, donors, and candidates – in the short, medium and long term? Will these crises dampen or alter women's political involvement? And how have women, as community leaders and public officials, shaped the public response to Covid-19? What does the pandemic teach us about women's leadership and the consequences of women's political underrepresentation?
  • The resurgence and expansion of activism around #BlackLivesMatter and broader anti-racist movements have already altered the political landscape. What are medium and potential long-term implications for Black women and Latinas of access to elective office, particularly at the local level?



Proposals will be evaluated and awards will be granted among two pools of eligible applicants.

  • Doctoral Students: Applicants must be advanced doctoral students who have completed course work but who have not received the Ph.D. by December 2020.
  • Faculty/Post-Graduates: Applicants must hold a Ph.D. and be working as a post-doctoral fellow or scholar at any rank with an academic affiliation.

Collaborative projects – including those between scholars and practitioners – are welcome. We also welcome projects that reflect a wide range of methodological approaches. We strongly encourage applications from scholars who are from groups that are underrepresented in the academy.

Proposal Requirements 

Project Overview: In no more than two single-spaced pages, applicants should outline their proposed research question(s), methodology, and research design. Project overviews should also include a discussion of the practical implications of this research project and how the applicant will translate their research findings for practitioner and public audiences.

Research Timeline: Applicants should provide a timeline for research that includes anticipated start and end dates, with key milestones included. The timeline should align with applicants’ budget justification and expenses.

Budget Justification: Applicants should provide a research budget that provides the total amount of money requested and explains how that budget will be allocated in order to support the research project. Budgets for each proposal should be capped at $10,000 for graduate students and $30,000 for faculty/post-graduates. See the FAQs for additional information about what costs are eligible for coverage.

Applicant Profile: Applicants should provide a copy of their CV as well as a brief (one to two paragraphs) summary of experience relevant to the proposed research project. Collaborators should describe here the benefits they anticipate from the proposed collaboration. Graduate student applicants should also include the name and contact information for their department’s director of graduate studies.

Timeline For Submission and Review

Applications will be accepted through November 23, 2020 by 5pm ET.  Decisions will be announced in January 2021.


Does my proposed research project have to address all three priority areas of study?
We prefer that research proposals are related to one or more of the priority areas listed in the request for proposals, in addition to aligning with the preferences for research that are laid out at the start of the RFP.

What if my proposed research project does not fit into the three priority areas of study?
While our preference is for research proposals related to one or more of the priority areas and related questions outlined in the request for proposals, researchers are welcome to propose research projects that fall outside, but are related to, these areas or questions.

How will applications be evaluated?
CAWP will bring together a group of evaluators, including CAWP staff and faculty and external reviewers with direct experience in gender and politics scholarship and/or practice. Evaluators will select proposals that best fit the requirements and priorities noted in the RFP.

How many grants will be awarded?
The total number of awards granted – both in the graduate student and post-graduate competitions – will be dependent on project budgets of selected projects.

What are the size of the grants that will be awarded?
Grants of diverse sizes/amounts will be awarded based on the budget needs of each project. Applicants should request a desired amount that falls under or at the maximum value for their applicant group ($10,000 for the graduate students and $30,000 for faculty/post-graduates). The budget justification in each proposal will guide evaluators in determining the size of each grant.

When will applicants find out if they have been awarded a grant?
We anticipate completing the review process and notifying grantees in January 2021. We are hopeful that grants will be issued within one month of grantees being notified and completing required paperwork to accept the grant.

What will be required of grantees?
Grantees will be required to provide a summary of research findings (to that point) to CAWP by December 31, 2021. They will also be asked to provide a summary of budget allocation to indicate how the award was spent. In addition, applicants will be asked to present their research findings at a meeting of award recipients. Finally, because of CAWP’s commitment to translating research into practice, researchers will be expected to work with CAWP to craft an overview of their research findings for practitioner and public audiences.

Will grants be issued directly to grantees to their home institutions?
Grants of $5,000 or less can be issued to grantees directly (and would be subject to tax) or to the grantee’s home institution (tax-exempt). Grants over $5,000 will be issued to the grantee’s home institution (tax-exempt). CAWP will work with grantees if a combination of these approaches is necessary.

What costs can be included in project budgets?
Grants should be used to facilitate the proposed research projects. Relevant costs include, but are not limited to: technology, research assistance, data purchases, surveys, transcription, and travel. Up to $5,000 of awards may also be used to offset the costs of reduced teaching, child care, or related expenses incurred in order to provide applicants the time to complete research. Grant monies cannot be used by grantees’ home institutions to cover overhead costs.


The application period is now closed. More information on the research grant recipients is available here
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