When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures

When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures

When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures

When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures

Synopsis

Until recently, the study of legislative leadership has been the study of men. Scholars have taught students that legislative leadership is transactional, a kind of competitive bargaining procedure to broker particular interests. When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures brings to light the important contributions that women as legislative leaders make to the institutions in which they operate. Cindy Simon Rosenthal shows us how (and where) women are "integrating" the ranks of the legislative hierarchy, a forum in which they have been all but absent. She also argues that women are "doing leadership" in an innovative, inclusive style that subtly redefines both the appearance and meaning of political leadership. Contradicting the assumption that legislative leadership is inherently transactional, Rosenthal posits an integrative style emphasizing collaboration, shared problem-solving, and consensus. Further, she argues that women committee chairs come to their roles from different life experiences, and so employ motivations, tactics, and visions of leadership that differ in important ways from their male counterparts. Her findings suggest that women tend to see political leadership as something more than the act of satisfying particular interests. This study of women who chair state legislative committees examines one of America's largest cohorts of women in institutional leadership roles, thus making an important contribution to our understanding of gender, organizational leadership, and state legislatures. Rosenthal ably demonstrates that legislatures are not gender-neutral and that legislative leadership must be understood within a gendered context. Numbers and power therefore constitute critical variables throughout this study. While stereotyping has not disappeared in some states, women across the country--as illustrated in When Women Lead--are effectively redefining the framework and the assumptions central to political leadership in other locales.

Excerpt

The adage "opportunity knocks" describes the serendipitous origins of this study. In 1992, in a graduate seminar on public organizational behavior, I wrote a research prospectus on examining the leadership behavior of women as chairs of state legislative committees. Like most graduate assignments, the prospectus was undertaken with a certain pragmatism on my part: I knew something about legislatures, committees, and legislative leadership from my years as director of legislative management at the National Conference of State Legislatures. What I did not appreciate at that time was that the study of legislative leadership borrowed very little from the theoretical insights of public administrationists and others who specialize in understanding organizations, leadership behavior, and gender. I also was unaware of the paucity of research on women as political leaders. As I connected these facts, a door opened and thus an opportunity presented itself.

Using gender as a lens for analysis and understanding, this book seeks to explore the nexus of representation, organizations, and leadership in state legislative bodies. Although these concepts are often given separate consideration, there is no extant study that examines their interrelationship both empirically and contextually. This study draws heavily on administrative and organization theories to inform an exposition of legislative leadership behavior, and in that sense, the project has been somewhat unique.

To date, much of what has been written about women as political leaders has been biographical or based on relatively small samples. To be sure, women as leaders of our major institutions of governance have been too few in number to allow for much analysis or comparison. As a result, many questions about women in institutional leadership roles have gone unanswered: Do women in positions of power and leadership in political institutions differ in background, behavior, and outlook from men? Are there gender-related leadership styles in political settings? What effect do institutional constraints and norms have on men and women holding similar positions of political leadership? What impact do women in leadership positions have on the institutions in which they serve?

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