The Matrix of Women’s Participation in Congress
We began this journey with a few simple questions: Do Republican women behave the same way as Democratic women? Do they vote alike? Are their priorities the same? Do they have the same level of success within the institution? In other words, does gender alone determine legislative behavior, or does partisanship also influence the way in which women participate? To address these questions we examined the participation of female Members in the congressional district, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the party organization. In all of these arenas we found clear answers. It is certain from this analysis that just as Swers (2002, 15) notes, “Policy is not made in a vacuum. Members are highly affected by the demands of their party caucus and leaders as well as the external political climate around them” (Rhode 1991; Cox and McCubbins 1993; Sinclair 1995). Whether a female Member is a Democrat or a Republican, partisanship is an important factor of the political context serving to shape women’s political experience. Female Republican Members do not behave the same way as female Democratic Members. They do not vote the same way on the floor. They do not have the same priorities. And, in the end, while it appears they have some level of success within the Congress, the factors predicting this success are unique to the parties to which they belong.
KeywordsDemocratic Party Vote Behavior Republican Party Female Member Party Organization
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