The Benefits and Pitfalls of Digital for Female Politicians

Female politicians face a significantly larger volume of gendered comments than their male counterparts

Sexism and abuse are everyday occurrences for many female politicians who are active online…However, despite the pitfalls, digital campaigning still offers significant benefits for female candidates, which should not be overlooked.

A new report released by Atalanta, a social enterprise dedicated to increasing women’s representation in government, has revealed significant differences in the way that female and male political leaders are discussed online. The report – “(Anti)Social Media: The Benefits and Pitfalls of Digital for Female Politicians” – is based on social media analysis from BrandsEye, a leader in sentiment analysis, and interviews with prominent female politicians and campaign strategists.

Speaking about the release of the report, Atalanta Founder & CEO Eva Barboni said: “Sexism and abuse are everyday occurrences for many female politicians who are active online. This takes a heavy toll on both the politicians themselves and on our broader democratic debate, particularly when it escalates from harassment to threats. However, despite the pitfalls, digital campaigning still offers significant benefits for female candidates, which should not be overlooked.”

BrandsEye CEO Jean Pierre Kloppers added, “Social media is a rich source of volunteered public opinion data that has until now proven challenging to organise into decipherable insights. By combining AI and human intelligence, we are able to gather accurate insights that empower leaders of the world to understand and engage with the key issues driving public sentiment.”

Key findings include:

  • Women were 3.4 times more likely than men to experience gender-related derogatory comments.
  • 74.1% of comments related to political leaders’ appearance and 71.8% of comments related to their marital status were directed towards women. Such comments were also more negative towards women than towards their male counterparts.
  • In gendered conversations about political leaders, male authors dominated the conversation, contributing at least twice as many comments as female authors.

The report also includes insights about the benefits and pitfalls of social media from female politicians and campaign strategists, including: Baroness Anne Jenkin, Conservative Member of the UK House of Lords and Co-Founder of Women2Win; Jess Phillips, Labour Member of the UK Parliament; Amy Dacey, former CEO of the Democratic National Committee and former Executive Director of EMILY’s List; Jenna Lowenstein, former Digital Director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign; and Andrea Bozek, former Communications Director for both the House and Senate Republican campaign committees.

The report provides in-depth analysis of tweets about three high-profile pairs of female and male political leaders in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Chile. It then assesses the tools and strategies currently available to mitigate online abuse, and puts forward a collaborative approach to addressing it, with recommendations for a range of actors. Finally, in a chapter contributed by communications strategist and former Digital Director for the UK Conservative Party, Bethany Wheatley, the report illustrates why digital campaigning is still worthwhile for female candidates, despite the drawbacks.

Alongside the report, Atalanta launched a new digital campaign solution for female candidates, developed in collaboration with leading digital agency Tectonica. The solution aims to help female candidates harness powerful digital tools to overcome barriers to electoral success:

Notes for Editors:

About Atalanta

Atalanta is a social enterprise whose mission is to increase the number of women holding senior government positions worldwide and accelerate programmes that tackle the root causes of gender inequality. Founder & CEO Eva Barboni is available for interviews about the report and its findings. She is based in London. (

About BrandsEye

BrandsEye is an opinion mining company. They use a proprietary mix of artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing to mine online conversations for sentiment. In 2016, they used this technology to predict the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election. Today, they provide accurate and granular opinion data to governments and businesses around the world. CEO Jean Pierre Kloppers, Managing Director Melanie Malherbe and CMO Nic Ray are available for interviews about the methodology behind the social media analysis. (

About Tectonica

Tectonica Studios creates digital solutions for progressive candidates, nonprofit organisations and socially-conscious companies. It has built award-winning brands, strategies, and online organising tools for hundreds of clients from across the globe. Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tectonica’s team is led by its LGBT-identified founders Mariana Spada and Ned Howey. (

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