Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Women in the Legislature

In the 51st Oklahoma Legislature there will be 18 women serving; nine Republicans and nine Democrats. There will be 11 women serving in the House of Representatives and 7 women serving in the Senate. Thirty-four Democratic women filed for state office in 2006. The Oklahoma Democratic Party would like to double that number in 2008. We are now actively recruiting qualified women to file for public office in 2008, and we're looking for 68 women to step up and take the challenge of public service and leadership. Why is this important? Read the following article about why women matter in the legislature. Then make a decision to be one, find one or support one.

Do Women in Local, State, and National Legislative Bodies Matter?
A Definitive Yes Proves Three Decades of Research By Political Scientists
By Karen O'Connor
Director, Women & Politics Institute, American University

Political theorist Hannah Pitkin asserts that political representation "means acting in the interest of the represented, in a manner responsive to them."1 Political scientist Jane Mansbridge goes farther to note that descriptive representation enhances substantive representation. 2Some male legislators may seek to advance women's interests, and others may argue that all issues are women's issues. But, a large and important body of research by political scientists indicates that the presence of women in legislative bodies makes a significant difference not only in what gets discussed, but also in what kinds of legislation are advanced.
When Elizabeth Dole entered the Republican presidential primary for the 2000 election, her presence forced the other candidates to deal with issues of concern to women voters. Similarly, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun's entrance into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2004 already is being hailed because, as a woman, she will force the rest of the Democratic candidates to address women's issues seriously. It is one thing for all of the announced male candidates to appear together on the stage at NARAL Pro-Choice America's Roe v. Wade 30th Anniversary dinner to voice their support for reproductive rights; it is another when they are forced to deal with women's issues on a daily basis on the campaign trail.3 A women's presence in the race will do that in a way no ardently feminist man could.
The same phenomenon holds true in legislative bodies (as well as the courts). Simply put, more than three decades of rigorous scholarly inquiry leave no doubt that women in politics in general and women in elective office, in particular, make a difference in the lives of all women. They help "enact better policy for women," 4as well as affect the legislative bodies in which they serve.5
Much of the early research on the impact of woman legislators was confined to analyses of state and local legislatures simply because there were insufficient numbers of women in the U.S. House or Senate to allow for any kind of exacting quantitative analysis. Research conducted at the state and local level, however, ultimately provided testable hypotheses to examine the impact of women in the House of Representatives. Among the key findings about the impact of women legislators in state and local governments are:
On the Issues
· Women conceptualize problems differently and are more likely to offer new solutions. 6
· Non-feminist women are more likely than non-feminist male colleagues to work on legislation affecting women. 7
· Women legislators of both parties are more likely to advance "women's issues," define women's issues more broadly than men, put them at the top of their legislative agendas, and to take a leadership role in those issue areas.8 This results in bills dealing with children, education, and health care becoming legislative priorities. 9
· Women are more likely to view crime as a societal, rather than individual problem.10
· Women legislators are more likely to make certain that their policy positions are translated into new programs to help women.11

Working for Their Constituents
· Women legislators receive more constituent casework requests than their male colleagues and are three times more likely to agree that they would do more if they had more staff.12
· Women not only are more responsive to constituent requests, they are more likely to be persistent in their follow through to get a favorable resolution for their constituents. 13
· Women legislators believe that they need to help other women transcend barriers to success. 14
In the Legislative Body
· Women view themselves as more prepared, more diligent, and more organized.15
· Women emphasize a "hands on" approach emphasizing collegiality and collaboration instead of a hierarchical "command" approach. 16
· Women rely on a wider range of individuals in formulating policy creating more sensitive and thoughtful policy making. 17
· Women who meet as a caucus are more likely to work on bills dealing with women's rights. 18
· First term women sponsor less legislation than their male counterparts, while more senior women offer more than their male counterparts. 19
· Female committee chairs use their positions to facilitate interaction among committee members rather than to control and direct the debate. This affects the behavior of witnesses and other committee members. 20
· In general, women-sponsored legislation has a slightly higher rate of passage.21 Particularly, women's priority bills on women's issues become law at a higher pass rate than men's. 22
· When women are less than 15 percent of the legislative body, their status constrains their behavior. 23
· States with the lowest percentage of women in their legislatures pass the lowest number of women's bills.24
· Men believe that women in the legislative body help sensitize them to women's issues.25
The findings of the researchers noted above provide conclusive proof of the impact that women have as state and local legislators. Of course, given the smaller number of women in Congress until late, many of their local and state-based studies cannot yet be replicated, particularly in the U.S. Senate. Still, all of the quantitative studies of women in the House of Representatives have reached the same conclusions about women in that body. As the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink (D-HI) noted: "I always felt that we [women] were serving a dual role in Congress, representing our own districts and, at the same time, having a voice to the concerns of the total population of women in the country."26 It is clear that the vast majority of women in the Congress feel this way. This sentiment is underscored by quantitative studies of women in Congress by political scientists who have found that:
On the Issues
· Women get women's issues on the agenda. 27
· Women widen the range of policy solutions proposed and frame the policy debate in different terms.28
· Congresswomen give more attention and support to women's issues than men, regardless of their party affiliation or ideology. 29
· Overwhelmingly, women members introduce most women's legislation. 30
· Women are more likely than men to co-sponsor legislation dealing with women's issues. 31
Women in the Institution
· Use the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues to champion women's issues. 32
· Without Caucus initiatives, many women's policies would not have been enacted. 33
· Strategic positions by women legislators make the difference in drafting legislation and on the floor.34
· Women use their positions on committees to advance legislation benefiting women. 35
· Since 1992, women in the Senate have received less valuable committee assignments. 36
· Women continue to be overlooked for committee chairmanships. 37
· Women use conference committee assignments to advance and protect women's policy issues. 38
Thirty decades of methodologically sophisticated social science research proves women make a difference. The question now should be how to get more women elected to these positions.
1. The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).
2. "Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent 'Yes'," Journal of Politics 61 (1999): 628-57.
3. Research by political scientists, for example, has found that when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor took her place on the U.S. Supreme Court, all of the other justices' support of claims of sex discrimination rose significantly. Her presence in the room as the justices deliberated cases apparently made them more cognizant of, and less likely to sanction sex discrimination. Karen O'Connor and Jeffrey A. Segal, "The Supreme Court's Reaction to its First Female Member," Women & Politics 10 (1990): 95-104. Similarly Elaine Martin and Barry Pyle find that feminist judges are more likely to adopt a pro-woman position, which holds true for Democratic and Republican judges. "Gender and Racial Diversification of State Supreme Courts," Women & Politics 24 (2002): 35-52.
4. Amy Caizza, "Does Women's Representation in Elected Office Lead to Women-Friendly Policy?" Institute for Women's Policy Research, Research in Brief. IWPR Publication #1910.
5. Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); and, Georgia Duerst-Lahti, "Knowing Congress as a Gendered Institution," in Cindy Simon Rosenthal, ed. Women Transforming Congress (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).
6. Lyn Kathlene, "In a Different Voice: Women and the Policy Process," in Sue Thomas and Clyde Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Lyn Kathlene, "Words that Matter: Women's Voice and Institutional Bias in Public Policy Formation," in Susan J. Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2001); Marcia Whicker and Malcolm E. Jewell, "The Feminization of Leadership in State Legislatures," in Thomas and Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office; and, Cindy Simon Rosenthal, "Gender Styles in State Legislative Committees: Raising their Voices in Resolving Conflict," Women & Politics 21 (2000): 21-46.
7. Debra L. Dodson, "Acting for Women: Is What State Legislators Say What they Do?" in Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office.
8. Janet Boles, "Local Elected Women and Policymaking: Movement Delegates or Feminist Trustees," in Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office; Susan J. Carroll, "Representing Women: Women State Legislators as Agents of Policy-Related Change," in Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office; Sue Thomas and Susan Welch, "The Impact of Gender on Activities and Priorities of State Legislators," Western Political Quarterly 44 (June 1991): 445-456; Sue Thomas, "Why Gender Matters: The Perceptions of Women Officeholders," Women & Politics 17 (1997): 27-54; Debra Dodson and Susan J. Carroll, "Reshaping the Agenda: Women in State Legislatures," (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, Center for American Women and Politics, 1991); Edith J. Barrett, "Gender and Race in the State House: The Legislative Experience," Social Science Journal 34 (1999): 134-44; Shelah Gilbert Leader, "The Policy Impact of Elected Women Officials," in L. Sandy Maisel and Joseph Cooper, eds. The Impact of the Electoral Process (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1977); Thomas H. Little, Dana Dunn, and Rebecca Dean, "A View from the Top: Gender Differences in Legislative Priorities Among State Legislative Leaders," Women & Politics 22 (2001): 29-50; Beth Reingold, Representing Women: Sex, Gender, and Legislative Behavior in Arizona and California (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Michelle A. Saint Germain, "Does their Difference Make a Difference?: The Impact of Women on Public Policy in the Arizona Legislatures," Social Science Quarterly 70 (1989): 956-968; and, Sue Thomas, How Women Legislate (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
9. Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office; Joanne V. Hawks and Carolyn Ellis Staton, "On the Eve of Transition: Women in Southern Legislatures, 1946-1968," in Lois Lovelace Duke, ed. Women in Politics: Outsiders or Insiders (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993); Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, Political Women (New York, Basic Books, 1974); and, Lynne E. Ford and Kathleen Dolan, "Contemporary Women State Legislators: A Diverse Group With Diverse Agendas," in Lois Lovelace Duke, ed. Women in Politics: Outsiders or Insiders, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996).
10. Lyn Kathlene, "Power and Influence in State Legislatures: The Interaction of Gender and Position in Committee Hearing Debates," American Political Science Review 88 (1994): 560-76.
11. Boles, "Local Elected Women."
12. Lilliard E. Richardson, Jr. and Patricia Freeman, "Gender Differences in Constituency Service Among State Legislators," Political Research Quarterly 48 (1995): 169-179.
13. Susan Abrams Beck, "Acting as Women: The Effects and Limitations of Gender in Local Governance," in Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office.
14. Thomas, "Why Gender Matters."
15. Beck, "Acting as Women" and Thomas, "Why Gender Matters."
16. Cindy Simon Rosenthal, "Determinants of Collaborative Leadership: Civil Engagement, Gender or Organizational Norms?" Political Research Quarterly 51 (1998): 847-868.
17. Kathlene, "Power and Influence." Interestingly, the public also views women leaders as more organized (67%), communicative (65%), creative (62%), and people oriented (54%) than male leaders. Avon's Global Women's Survey, 2000. Janet Flammang also finds that women attribute their distinctive leadership styles to "an insistence upon mutual respect, consensus decision-making, validation of the feelings of others, and noncompetitive power." "Female Officials in the Feminist Capital: The Case of Santa Clara County," Western Political Quarterly 38 (1985): 94-118.
18. Thomas, How Women Legislate and Thomas and Welch, "The Impact of Women."
19. Kathlene, "Words that Matter."
20. Lyn Kathlene, "Power and Influence;" Sue Tolleson Rinehart, "Do Women Leaders Make a Difference? Substance, Style and Perceptions," in Debra Dodson, ed. Gender and Policy Making: Studies of Women in Office (New Brunswick, NJ: Center for American Women and Politics, 1991); Whicker and Jewell, "The Feminization of Leadership in State Legislatures;" and, Cindy Simon Rosenthal, "Getting Things Done: Women Committee Chairpersons in State Legislatures," in Thomas and Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office.
21. Mark Ellickson and Donald Whistler, "A Path Analysis of Legislative Success in Professional and Citizens Legislatures: A Gender Comparison," Women & Politics 21 (2000): 77-103.
22. Sue Thomas and Susan Welch, "The Impact of Women in State Legislatures: Numerical and Organizational Strength," in Carroll, ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office.
23. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Men and Women of the Corporation (New York, Basic Books, 1977).
24. Thomas and Welch, "The Impact of Women."
25. Boles, "Local Elected Women."
26. Fern S. Ingersoll, "Former Congresswomen Look Back," in Irene Tinker, ed. Women in Washington: Advocates for Policy Change (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1983).
27. Christina Wolbrecht, The Politics of Women's Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); Debra Dodson, et al. Voices, Views, Votes: the Impact of Women in the 103rd Congress (New Brunswick, NJ: Center for American Women and Politics, 1995); Kathleen Frankovic, "Sex and Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives," American Politics Quarterly 5 (1977): 315-330; Nancy E. McGlen, et al. Women, Politics, and American Society, 3rd ed. (New York: Longman, 2002); and, Barbara Burrell, A Woman's Place is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).
28. Wolbrecht, The Politics of Women's Rights; and, Dena Levy, Charles Tien, and Rachelle Aved, "Do Differences Matter? Women Members of Congress and the Hyde Amendment," in Karen O'Connor, ed. Women and Congress: Running, Winning, and Ruling (New York: Haworth Press, 2002).
29. Julie Dolan, "Support for Women's Interests in the 103rd Congress: The Distinct Impact of Congressional Women," Women & Politics 18 (1997): 81-93; Raymond Tatlovich and David Sheier, "The Persistence of Ideological Cleavage in Voting on Abortion Legislation in the House of Representatives, 1973-1988," American Politics Quarterly 21 (1993): 125-139; Wolbrecht, The Politics of Women's Rights; Frieda L. Gehlen, "Women Members of Congress: A Distinctive Role," in Marianne Githens and Jewell Prestage, eds. A Portrait of Marginality: the Political Behavior of American Women (New York: David McKay, 1977); Leader, "The Policy Impact;" Janet Clark, "Women at the National Level," in Thomas and Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office; and, Michele Swers, "Are Congresswoman More Likely to Vote for Women's Issue Bills Than Their Male Colleagues?" Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (1998): 435-448.
30. Wolbrecht, The Politics of Women's Rights, and; Michele Swers, The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
31. Karen O'Connor, "Thirteen and Counting (and Making a Difference): Women in the U.S. Senate," Journal of Women's Imaging (November 2001): 119-122; Wolbrecht, The Politics of Women's Rights; Karin Tamerius, "Sex, Gender, and Leadership in the Representation of Women," in Georgia Duerst-Lahti and Rita Mae Kelly, eds. Gender, Power, Leadership, and Governance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1995); Katherine Cramer Walsh, "Enlarging Representation: Women Bringing Marginalized Perspectives to Floor Debate in the House of Representatives," in Rosenthal, ed. Women Transforming Congress; and, Swers, The Difference Women Make.
32. Irwin Gertzog, Congressional Women: Their Recruitment, Integration, and Behavior, 2nd ed. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995); and, Dodson, et al. Voices, Views, Votes.
33. Debra Dodson, "Representing Women's Interests in the U.S. House of Representatives," in Thomas and Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office.
34. Swers, The Difference Women Make; and, Noelle H. Norton, "Transforming Policy from the Inside: Participation in Committee," in Rosenthal, ed. Women Transforming Congress.
35. McGlen, et al. Women, Politics, and American Society.
36. Laura W. Arnold and Barbara M. King, "Women, Committees, and Institutional Change in the Senate," in Rosenthal, ed. Women Transforming Congress.
37. Arnold and King, "Women, Committees, and Institutional Change."
38. Norton, "Transforming Policy from the Inside;" and, Richard L. Hall, Participation in Congress (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996).
The Women & Politics Institute is dedicated to advancing the study and discussion of women and politics, promoting opportunities for women in politics, and training young women to become political leaders:

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