At the polling booths, women outnumbered men 53 percent to 47 percent in the 2008 presidential election, according to exit polls. Yet on a day-to-day basis, women are not major consumers of political news. Taegan Goddard, who created and runs the popular ten-year-old website Political Wire, says that he finds the numbers disheartening. “From what I know of my site and other political websites, 65 to 70 percent of readers are men,” he says. “It’s been perplexing, no matter what you do to rope in female readers, it doesn’t seem to stick.”

Perhaps the problem is the tenor of the coverage. Veteran journalist Melinda Henneberger interviewed women in twenty states for her 2007 book If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear. She says, “The thing I heard from everyone, whether liberal or conservative, was how put off a lot of them were by the whole political culture, whole toxic conversation—the screaming candidates and talking heads talking about politics.”

Henneberger was hired by AOL in 2009 to launch a website, Politics Daily, and she put together a predominantly female staff (my husband, Walter Shapiro, was one of the exceptions). “I wasn’t trying to even the score,” insists Henneberger. “But I saw great women writers all around. I think these male-created and male-run outfits tend to come up with a product that is a lot like them. I did the same thing.”

Her tactic did seem to open up the political conversation: Politics Daily’s readership skewed more than 50 percent female. The site closed last year as part of the AOL-HuffPost merger, and Henneberger recently launched a blog, “She The People,” staffed by twenty female contributors, for The Washington Post. “We were the best-read blog on the Post in the first three days right after the Iowa caucus.” says Henneberger. She argues that women writers add something unique to the dialogue. “It’s a different angle of entry. It’s not that the subject matter is any different. We’re not writing about makeup tips; we’re writing the same thing but with a different pair of eyes. It’s not even story choice, it’s just what we bring to it.”

But it’s not easy. Covering a presidential campaign has always been a prestigious and career-making assignment, but the lifestyle has never been for the faint of heart. Think of it as a sleep-deprivation experiment, amplified by bad road food and weeks away from home. Maggie Haberman, of Politico, was spending the last few minutes before the New Hampshire debate calling her husband, New York Post reporter Dareh Gregorian. “He’s been home taking care of our two kids,” she noted. For working women, these situations always involve delicate negotiations. Alice Stewart, the press secretary for Michelle Bachmann and a former local TV anchor, says that she wasn’t surprised to see fewer women in the press corps. “The reality is that many of the women can’t afford to take the time away from their families,” she says. “The men are in a position where they can do that a little easier.”

Do some women opt out of this grueling assignment and is that why news organizations have such lopsided campaign teams? Just ask the question and you get heated answers. “I don’t believe that for a second,” says Henneberger. “When I was at the Times, people were killing each other to get on the road. It’s not reporters self-selecting out. People love it. It’s a great job.” Yet Seema Mehta, of the Los Angeles Times, says she and her friends do worry about their futures. “We talk about it all the time,” she says. “We’re married and we don’t have children yet. We can do it now. But once you reach a certain age and have kids, it’s hard to travel.”

Meryl Gordon is the Director of Magazine Writing at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She has been a magazine writer for 25 years and is the author of Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach.