Gender and Politics

By Thaemert, Rita | State Legislatures, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Gender and Politics


Thaemert, Rita, State Legislatures


Do women legislators make a difference? "Sometimes," says author Beth Reingold. Her book questions many beliefs about the expected behaviors of women and men politicians. Her exhaustive 1990 study of female legislators in Arizona and California reveals that women are more attuned to the needs of their female constituents than their male colleagues. Females are more active in such issues as children, health, education, the environment and welfare.

However, few significant gender differences appear in either attitudes or vote decisions in the 1990 Arizona and California legislatures. Men and women agreed more than they disagreed. Political party affiliation was more important than gender.

Since 1975, the percentage of elected women policymakers has steadily increased. A 1988 report, "Gender and Policymaking," by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), looked at 12 states, including Arizona and California, and inferred that women legislators make the most distinct contribution "when they organize to work together on mutual goals."

Reingold, too, found that California women, having formed the Women's Legislative Caucus in 1985, developed an effective voice in policy matters on child care, child support enforcement and violence against women. …

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