The Journal of Politics


The Impact of Women on State Legislative Policies

Sue Thomasa1

a1 Georgetown University


Do women in public office make a difference? If so, what kind and under what circumstances? This study offers preliminary answers to these questions by examining the relationship between the percentage of women in state legislatures and their policy priorities. It also examines the impact women legislators have on overall legislative policy. Findings reveal that women in states with the highest percentages of female representatives introduce and pass more priority bills dealing with issues of women, children, and families than men in their states and more than their female counterparts in low representation legislatures. Moreover, women can successfully diffuse their priorities throughout the legislative process in one of two ways: through high percentages of women in office or through the presence of a formal women's legislative caucus. These findings suggest that women do indeed make a difference and that their capacity to do so is related to the level of support from colleagues.

(Received December 27 1990)

(Accepted October 03 1989)

Sue Thomas is assistant professor of government, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Thomas 20057–0001.