Newswise — Citizens have more faith in their government institutions when both women and men are involved in decision-making, according to a study conducted by Diana Z. O’Brien, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University and her co-investigators, Amanda Clayton of Vanderbilt University and Jennifer M. Piscopo of Occidental College.
Their findings were published in the American Journal of Political Science in September, and they showed that, without exception, men and women, both Republican and Democrat, prefer decision-making bodies comprised equally of men and women.
“Generally, for citizens to feel good about their democratic institutions, for them to be more likely to engage, more likely to do what the government wants and needs them to do, like pay taxes and follow laws, to have that sort of citizen engagement and sense of trust, institutions need to be inclusive,” O’Brien said.
Yet, with women accounting for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. Congress and 25 percent of state legislators, the nation likely is decades away from achieving the gender parity in government that would make this scenario possible, O’Brien said.
“We’re seeing a bipartisan push for inclusivity, but it’s going to take time to reach 40 to 50 percent women in government,” she said. “In the meantime, political leaders can try to help more women officeholders onto high-profile committees where the power is located in state and national governments, and the President can appoint women as advisers and cabinet members.”
An experiment with gender parity in politics
In the study, O’Brien and her peers surveyed men and women about different versions of a hypothetical newspaper article. The story featured an eight-member legislative committee making decisions about sexual harassment policies, but depending on the version, the composition of the committee was either all male or gender-balanced, and the outcome either advanced or rolled back rights for women.
The respondents answered questions about their attitudes towards the decision-making process, their trust in the institution and individuals making the decisions, their perceptions of the legitimacy of the decisions and their willingness to accept the decisions.
Gender balance inspires more confidence in the decision-makers, the institutions they represent and their conclusions. This is especially true when citizens, especially men, perceive that decisions roll back rights for women. The findings also can apply to those making decisions in the business sector and their affected employees, O’Brien said.
Read the entire story on Texas A&M Today.