Blair's Babes: Critical Mass Theory, Gender, and Legislative Life
17 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2001
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
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