Blair's Babes: Critical Mass Theory, Gender, and Legislative Life

17 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2001

See all articles by Pippa Norris

Pippa Norris

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); University of Sydney

Joni Lovenduski

University of London - Birkbeck College

Date Written: September 2001


The entry of the cohort of "Blair's babes" into public life provides an ideal test case of whether, and under what conditions, women leaders in elected office have the capacity to "make a substantive difference." Part I outlines the theoretical framework based on critical mass theory. Part II describes the data and measures, including the British Representation Study survey of 1000 parliamentary candidates and members conducted in the 2001 general election. Part III examines the evidence for party and gender differences concerning five scales measuring attitudes and values that commonly divide British party politics.

The study suggests that once we control for party, there are no significant differences among women and men leaders across three of the value scales, including those concerning the free market economy, the European scale and the moral traditionalism scale. Yet on the two scales that are most closely related to women's interests, namely the affirmative action and the gender equality scales, women and men leaders differ significantly within each party, even after controlling for other common social background variables such as their age, education, and income. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and considers why this matters for the composition of parliament, the public policy agenda and for women's roles as political leaders.

Keywords: Advocacy and Persuasion, Electoral Politics, Political Science

Suggested Citation

Norris, Pippa and Lovenduski, Joni, Blair's Babes: Critical Mass Theory, Gender, and Legislative Life (September 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Pippa Norris (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1475 (Phone)
617-496-2850 (Fax)

University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

Joni Lovenduski

University of London - Birkbeck College ( email )

School of Politics and Sociology
London WC1E 7HX
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics