The XX Factor

Can We Really Say Women Are Better Lawmakers?

Amanda ,

It’s certainly tempting to believe the Stanford and University of Chicago researchers who concluded that women make better legislators because we have to work harder and overcome more obstacles to attain such heights, and so only the best of us sneak through.

But I tend to be skeptical of research like this. And so I took a closer look at the study , and I’m not convinced. For one, the researchers use quantitative measures-how much money? How many bills?-to make a qualitative judgment. It’s like saying the best doctor is the one who sees the most patients, or the valedictorian is the student who does the most homework.

I’m also troubled by the assumption that bringing more money to one’s district or sponsoring more legislation necessarily makes one a good legislator. Perhaps if the Capitol building sat at the end of a rainbow, right next to a bottomless pot of gold, that would be all fine and good. But all that money that legislators bring back to their districts has to come from somewhere. From taxpayers, actually. Where’s the congresswoman who’s working to put my tax dollars back in my wallet, not in my district? And I might have missed something, but the study doesn’t seem to factor in whether women are sponsoring health care reform legislation or No Child Left Behind or TARP, or rather if it’s the Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2009. Wouldn’t it be easier to get more co-sponors, as the bill credits female pols for doing, if you’re sponsoring run-of-the-mill legislation?

I do agree with you that we need more female politicans out there to make a better comparison. In both parties. I just don’t think there’s much takeaway from this particular study.