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Is There a “Woman's Way” of Governing? Assessing the Organizational Structures of Women's Membership Associations

  • Maryann Barakso (a1)

To what extent do women's organizations share a common commitment to organizational participatory democracy? Research suggests that women appear more likely than men to prefer democratic decision-making processes, yet these studies generally compare women's and men's behavior in organizations that are not only numerically dominated by men but that were also initially formed by men. I examine the electoral and policymaking rules of 37 membership-based women's associations in order to determine the extent to which the bylaws of women's groups exhibit the high levels of democracy predicted by the theoretical and empirical literature. I find that levels of democracy in women's associations vary more than research on women's governance would suggest. I then explore factors that influence the observed variation in women's groups. I find that the extent to which a women's group relies on membership dues, the year it was founded, and, to a lesser extent, its size affect how democratically it is structured. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings for the representation of women's diverse political and economic interests.

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Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
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