How Women Legislate

How Women Legislate

How Women Legislate

How Women Legislate


The number of women in public office increased dramatically in recent elections, especially in state legislatures where one-fifth of the seats are now held by women. How Women Legislate offers a uniquely comprehensive and timely study of the effects women have had on legislation and the lawmaking process, analyzing the differences between women's and men's backgrounds before entering public office, and differences in their agendas, priorities, working styles, and leadership once they are in office. Arguing that there is a significant difference in legislative outcomes when the number of women in a given legislature reaches a certain threshold, the author provides one of the first analyses of the overall effects of women on the laws that are passed and on the way legislative business is done.


The basic discovery about any people is the discovery of the relationship between its men and women.


The current state of our knowledge about women in office is limited and inconclusive. What has been written--by both social scientist and journalists--is for the most part unsystematic, and a great deal of it is contradictory. Underlying the findings of most articles or books on the subject are a number of assumptions, usually unstated, about how the influence of femaleness impels women to act in the political realm. The problem is that no two authors agree about what this impact is, nor do most of them acknowledge possibilities other than those that formed the basis of their own work. Little if any analysis testing various assumptions or predictions has been offered.

The principal conflict is whether the perspective of women politicians will, for whatever reasons, be similar to or different from that of men. If different, bringing women into politics has the potential to usher in new ways of doing things or new things to do. If not, politics, with the increased inclusion of women, proceeds as usual. Without agreement by researchers about the nature or direction of the impact of women on the political realm, and without the testing of alternative hypotheses or the development of concrete theoretical arguments from which to base predictions or analyze results, the literature sends mixed messages about the behavior and motivations of women in office.

Some of the writing starts with the presumption that, as a result of bringing more women into political office, the very process by which business is conducted will be altered. Invariably, these articles suggest that women will reform political procedures to make them more humane, more cooperative, less cutthroat. Other writing about women in politics suggests that women keep their eyes trained on different sort of legislative goals . . .

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