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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

The Impact of Women’s Legislative Caucus Variation on Women’s Representation

Policy Change
Anna Mahoney
Tulane University
Anna Mahoney
Tulane University

In 2011, 23 women’s legislative caucuses existed throughout the 50 US state legislatures. These legislative organizations take many forms with some setting formal legislative agendas at the beginning of the session, others taking positions on legislation as it comes up throughout the session, and some not taking any official positions at all. These various modes are a result of compromises between women legislators who hold political party identifications which sometimes prevent them from agreeing on appropriate legislative action. In 27 states, no women’s caucuses exist at all.

Women’s legislative caucuses have cited women’s issues as one of their top priorities, and it is well established that women individually report an obligation to represent women within legislatures. Caucuses, as mechanisms outside traditional committee and party organizations, are instruments women legislators use to work for women’s rights both for legislators within the institution as well as for constituents through policy adoption. Case studies utilizing process tracing illustrate how these different types of women’s caucuses actually try to move (or block) legislation and the obstacles they face as an organization. This Paper compares the behaviors and strategies of the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus to the Texas Women’s Health Caucus. The former is an agenda setting women-only organization while the latter is an ad hoc caucus which does not have a set agenda for the session and allows for both male and female members. Through this comparison, I am able to better understand the strategies organizations within legislatures pursue when seeking to represent women.
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