Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Wolak

Abstract

If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu. Many have said this before I have, but women will not be treated as equals to men until there are a greater number of women at the political table. This study tested legislative effectiveness through observing data from the Colorado General Assembly database. The data was then compared to differences in effectiveness, tested by conducting interviews with current state legislators. By conducting semi-structured interviews with Colorado state legislators, this study was able to investigate qualitative reasoning behind the gender gap in U.S. politics. Others have argued that lack of confidence leads to not only fewer female politicians, but also to the demise of their effectiveness once women are elected into office. This research disproves this notion and also exposes exciting new evidence of abstract reasoning behind the confidence dilemma in politics today. I define the confidence dilemma as the difference between perceived confidence and confidence in reality. This research suggests that women are in fact a lot more effective and confident than they give themselves credit for. Socialized norms clearly influence the way women legislate but when talking about oneself, neither confidence nor effectiveness of the female legislator is diminished. In contrast, the male subjects did not recognize these differences at the high levels that the female legislators did. The conclusions of this study show women’s opinions do not adversely influence confidence levels or effectiveness as we originally believed, but rather raise confidence levels. This heightened confidence makes women more effective legislators.

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