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Title: A Woman’s Place Is In The House (And The Senate): A Critical Analysis Of Electoral Gender Quotas As A Model For The United States
Authors: Stoneman, Molly
Advisors: Fuss, Diana
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: When compared to most industrial democracies, the United States falls well behind in terms of women’s representation in national politics. Women comprise just 19.7 percent of Congressional members, but half of the populace. This presents deep concerns for electoral accountability, democratic legitimacy, and political representation. The underrepresentation of women is not just a matter of democratic injustice, but it is also an indicator of inefficiency in Congress, as studies have proven that women tend to build consensus across party lines, sponsor more bipartisan legislation, and tend to have their bills enacted more often than their male counterparts. Women also bring new perspectives to debates, and prioritize gendersalient issues more often than men. With increasing political polarization in Congress, increasing women’s representation provides one answer for improving party relations and legislative efficiency overall, while granting more legitimacy to the American electoral system. To address the institutional and cultural barriers that perpetuate the underrepresentation of women in government, more than half of the world’s nations have turned to electoral gender quotas. This thesis provides an in-depth analysis of electoral gender quotas in general as a model for increasing women’s representation by reviewing recent scholarship and seeking metrics of success in countries wherein quotas have been implemented. Next, it details three case studies of Westernized industrial democracies that have already implemented electoral gender quotas: Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. These comparative case studies of countries with similar political, economic, and cultural ideologies establish the possibility to successfully implement electoral quotas in liberal democracies with majoritarian, singlemember district voting systems similar to the United States’ system. This thesis reviews the body of scholarship on contemporary attitudes and trends toward women in government, and especially the psychosocial barriers that discourage women from running for elected office. This thesis evaluates potential constitutional and legal challenges an electoral gender quota policy may face if implemented in the United States. By reviewing milestone Supreme Court cases, this thesis evaluates the constraints of equal protection on gender classification cases, the limits of Congressional authority over elections, identifies First Amendment challenges to freedom of association by political parties, and discerns the legal nuances between public and private actor gender classifications in recruitment programs. These legal precedents and analogous cases infer that electoral gender quotas would be constitutional, with legal pathways for implementation in the United States. Lastly, this thesis suggests policy implications surrounding electoral gender quota implementation in the United States. This thesis contributes to the existing literature by studying international examples of successful quota implementation in Westernized industrial democracies and showing that their practices would be legal to implement in the United States. This tool to increase the representation of women in Congress has potentially wide-reaching implications for legislative efficiency, political representation, and democratic legitimacy.
Extent: 124 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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