Gender and Policy Agendas in the Post-War House

Citation:

Atkinson, Mary Layton. 2017. “Gender and Policy Agendas in the Post-War House.” Policy Studies Journal, 1-23. doi: 10.1111/psj.12237.

Author: Mary Layton Atkinson

Abstract:

For decades, critical mass theory shaped expectations about the ways female politicians would behave in office. Newer studies, however, have challenged the theory's premise that “token” women will avoid championing women's interests while women serving in more gender‐diverse bodies will work together to advance them. In fact, many in the discipline now believe it is time to leave the idea of critical mass behind. These new studies have significantly advanced our knowledge of the link between women's descriptive and substantive representation. But the move away from critical mass leaves unresolved the question of how female legislators will adapt their policy priorities based on changes in the size of the female delegation. I seek to answer this question and hypothesize that the more women who serve in Congress, the less attention each female member of Congress will give to women's issues, and the more diverse the female agenda will become. This diversification should not, however, result in lower overall levels of attention to women's issues. Because responsibility for substantive representation is shared, with each woman continuing to contribute as the delegation grows, the women's agenda can diversify while attention to women's issues actually increases. An analysis of bill sponsorship data spanning 60 years provides support for my theory. I show that when the size of the female delegation grows, women increase both the breadth and depth of their collective legislative agenda—simultaneously offering increased substantive representation and representation across a wider range of topics.

Keywords: policy agendas, substantive representation, women in Congress

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender Balance, Gender Mainstreaming, Governance, Quotas, Political Participation Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2017

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