Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Jason A MacDonald

Committee Co-Chair

Erin C Cassese

Committee Member

Shauna F Fisher

Committee Member

JoNell Strough

Committee Member

Jeffrey S Worsham


Past research has established the link between descriptive and substantive representation (Swers 2002a) and has overwhelmingly focused on agenda setting behaviors and roll call voting (e.g., Swain 1993; Thomas 1994; Swers 2013). The first part of this dissertation focuses instead on deliberations within committee hearings, quite proximate to the law-making process, where legislators exhibit representational behavior. Do women participate in committee proceedings more so than men when they consciously seek to represent so-called "women's interests"? This chapter aims to explore this question by gathering data on House hearings considering the Family and Medical Leave Act and a bill considering the advancement of women in STEM fields. The second part of this dissertation examines how female members of Congress conduct oversight on women's issues. Does the number of women serving on a committee affect the amount of oversight hearings conducted pertaining to women's issues? If so, then electing women makes a clear difference in House deliberations and oversight. Finally, the purpose of the third part of the dissertation is to tease out whether gender acts as an independent "fundamental characteristic" (Swers 2013) or if it is conditioned by district characteristics specifically related to the female reelection constituency. Perhaps congresswomen who are elected from certain districts with particular female reelection constituencies are more apt to introduce bills related to women's issues than are congresswomen and congressmen from other districts. However, I expect that voters' perceptions of congresswomen allow congresswomen to work on public policies related directly to women's needs and repay them with supportive votes, more so than congressmen. If this dissertation as a whole shows that the gender of a member significantly contributes to their behavior, then I have bolstered the literature that connects descriptive representation with substantive representation.