Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Public Administration and Policy

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 188 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Sue R Faerman

Committee Members

Victor Asal


gender, policy impact, politics, women legislators, State governments, Legislative bodies, Women, Legislative power

Subject Categories

Public Administration


Research on gender and politics often invokes Kanter's (1977) critical mass theory to draw a linkage between women political leaders' descriptive representation and substantive representation. Using the 50 state legislatures as the unit of analysis, I empirically tested the validity of the critical mass theory by investigating the relationship between women's share of legislative seats within lower chambers of state houses and their impact on legislative agenda setting and legislative success in 1995 and 2005. Based on the findings, I argue that the critical mass theory is of limited value in explaining women's policy impact and the field of gender and politics would benefit from the development of a new theoretical framework to better understand and examine how women's presence in political institutions translates into substantive public policy that promotes women's social, economic and political well-being. The fact that gender-related variables were poor predictors of the dependent variables and institutional factors played a more prominent role in explaining how many women's interest bills were introduced and passed in the 50 state legislatures suggests a needed shift from the critical mass-oriented approach to a more contextual- or individual-oriented approach to examining women political leaders' policy contribution.