Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

David J. Houston

Committee Members

Ian Down, Patricia F. Freeland, Nathan J. Kelly, David M. Ostermeier


A growing literature indicates that the representation of women in legislatures is positively associated with the passage of female-friendly social policy. However, there is little corresponding research concerning the effect of women in cabinet on female-friendly social policy. Yet, almost all advanced industrial democracies are parliamentary democracies, where policies typically originate within the cabinet and governments typically enjoy substantial control over the legislative process. Thus, to the extent that women promote female-friendly policy, women in cabinet positions should be ideally placed to do so, and indeed, possibly be more influential than women in legislatures. The purpose of this study is to analyze the role of female cabinet ministers in the adoption of a wide range of female-friendly policies, thus addressing this gap in the gender and politics literature. However, the role of female officeholders on female friendly policy may differ by policy.

To address this issue, I look at three different policy areas: family leave, working time, and child care. I create an index measure for each policy area so that I am able to analyze women’s impact on both individual policies (e.g. maternity leave) and a wider range of related female-friendly policies (e.g. family leave policies in general). In order to assess female officeholders’ effect on female friendly policy in general, I sum the three policy indices to form a single measure of female-friendly policy; this is the Support for Women’s Employment Index. Using OLS regression, I find that female ministers have a significant effect on the adoption of female-friendly policy generally and in each of the three policy areas.

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