Document Type

Thesis

Publication Date

4-2018

Advisor

Claire Haeg, Political Science

Abstract

Though women make up only a small fraction of the nation’s legislature, they are often stronger legislators than their male colleagues. Scholars have also found that, over time, these women pay more attention to issues considered more salient to women voters than their male counterparts do. But do women legislators provide better substantive representation to women in the electorate in comparison to men? This study utilizes methodology outlined by Frisch and Kelly (2003) to determine patterns in congresswomen’s committee assignments, and methodology utilized by Michele Swers (2002b) to determine whether women serving in the 111th, 113th, and 114th Congresses were more likely to sponsor women-salient legislation than men were. From there, I aimed to discover whether women serving in Congress have a greater representative responsibility than their male counterparts. I hypothesize that on the whole, men are more likely than women to achieve assignments to prestigious committees while women are more likely to be assigned to committees whose issue jurisdictions are considered more women-salient. I also hypothesize that women are more likely to sponsor women-salient legislation than their male counterparts are. These hypotheses are mostly supported by the data gathered, but the results also show that party control and issue saliency have a great influence over how women choose to provide substantive representation and what structural obstacles stand in the way of them doing so. The data generally points to the conclusion that women in Congress, who often view themselves as representatives of both their constituencies and their entire gender, have a greater representative responsibility than their male colleagues.

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