Are Women Better Legislators Than Men?
Studies like this do nothing to raise the level of political dialogue in this country. Today, Politico published an article about a study that claims to show that female members of Congress are more effective than their male counterparts.
As their criteria for success, the authors evaluated members of Congress on their individual abilities: (1) to introduce more bills; (2) to attract more co-sponsors; and, (3) to secure more pork spending for their home districts.
The authors identify self-doubt and voter bias as obstacles to women seeking office. The decision to run for office is like overcoming an eating disorder, apparently — all a woman needs is some self-esteem. Additionally, the authors seem to disregard the possibility that some women will always vote for a woman, relegating this matter of concern to a footnote:
There is some evidence that female candidates for the U.S. House actually have an advantage in gaining support from female voters […]
The authors state their belief that what makes a legislator outstanding is her success in garnering increased pork barrel spending for her home district:
[W]e believe that district-level federal spending is the single most informative indicator of a legislator’s performance in office […]
They do not acknowledge that a person could hold different criteria for success. Many people, such as myself, would consider reducing pork barrel spending to be an indicator of a successful legislator.
Furthermore, by using bill introductions as a measure of success, this study is confusing productivity with effectiveness. A lawmaker may keep her staff busy writing and filing bills, but what does she accomplish if she doesn’t get anything passed? The study was unable to conclude that women are more successful in enacting legislation, despite the fact that they introduce three times the number of bills and amendments that men do. Perhaps it could be argued that women are less effective legislators than men.