Can Women’s Caucuses Solve Coordination Problems Among Women Legislators? Logic, Lessons, and Evidence from American State Legislatures

64 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016

See all articles by Kristin Kanthak

Kristin Kanthak

University of Pittsburgh

George A. Krause

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Chapter 6 of The Diversity Paradox: How Parties Limit the Role of Women in American Legislatures offers women's legislative caucuses as a potential solution to the problem of asymmetric tokenism in legislatures. Asymmetric tokenism is defined as follows: Consistent with the tokenism theory from sociology, men legislators decreasingly value their women colleagues as their numbers increase, but inconsistent with this theory, women legislators do not at the same time increasingly value their women colleagues. Previous chapters explain that women must coordinate with one another to be able to work together as their numbers grow. The current chapter argues that women's legislative caucuses can effectively overcome this coordination problem only under certain conditions. Using an original dataset of qualitative and quantitative descriptions of women's caucuses in 96 legislatures in 48 states, we show that, indeed, women's caucuses can solve the problem of asymmetric tokenism by helping women to recognize the benefits of cooperation. Specifically, the findings indicate that formal women's caucuses in lower chambers unequivocally increase the proportion of majority party women who receive committee chairs. Furthermore, evidence from upper chambers indicate that women's caucuses increase the proportion of women serving in committee chairs, but only when the proportion of women is neither too large nor too small.

Suggested Citation

Kanthak, Kristin and Krause, George A., Can Women’s Caucuses Solve Coordination Problems Among Women Legislators? Logic, Lessons, and Evidence from American State Legislatures (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1644262

Kristin Kanthak (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

George A. Krause

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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