Alexandria Digital Research Library

Elected bodies : the maintenance of occupational sex segregation in elected office

Gonzales, Daisy Angelica
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Sociology
Degree Supervisor:
Beth Schneider
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Organization theory, Gender studies, and Sociology
Sex segregation
Organizational change
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

The California Legislature is one of the most powerful public workplaces in the world. The 120 state legislators that work in this occupation control the future of the eight-largest economy in the world and the lives of 39 million people. Like many other workplaces, the California legislature is and continues to be a sex-segregated workplace. Seventy-five percent of all state legislators in the United States are male. In California, seventy-four percent of legislators are male. This study examines how legislative structures and processes operate to inform our understanding of the sources of gender inequality in access, satisfaction, mobility and retention.

Legislators are excluded from workplace protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (EEOC 2016)---which makes the study of sex segregation in elected office imperative and ironic, since legislators set parameters and conduct oversight for all other workplaces. Making an important breakthrough in the literature about legislators, I use data from 38 semi-structured interviews with male and female California legislators. Understanding the job from the perspective of current legislators is an opening to assess the legislative workplace in real-time. Interviews expose the power dynamics and structures that have been overlooked by prior scholars, including the informal rules to introduce a bill and the backrooms deals to get a bill passed. I also use public data of committee assignments and chairmanships dating back to 1967 to identify patterns of hierarchy, leadership and composition. Additional research methods include the use of two years of participant observations of legislators during committee hearings, chamber sessions, and after-hour events and fundraisers. This study reveals that the ability of legislators to do their job is framed by their status within the organizational hierarchy and by gender status expectations produced through workplace interactions and maintained by organizational rules and practices.

As women continue to gain representation in bodies of state power, studying legislatures becomes a site to deconstruct occupational sex segregation. Demonstrating how power, hierarchies, and status are navigated, used and maintained in this workplace is a key contribution of this work. I focus on how power is navigated and how women navigate this male dominated workplace to uncover the mechanisms by which this workplace persists as male dominated. Through in-depth interviews with legislators and a deep examination of the workplace hierarchy, I reveal how house leaders frame legislators' institutional roles, status and ultimately, workplace access. Through this process, female legislators as non-traditional workers in a male-dominated workplace are disadvantaged through four key organizational mechanisms. The lack of oversight, discretion, informality and gender stereotyping operate as mechanisms that produce gender inequality in access to power, status and resources. The informality and high levels of discretion in this workplace make the legislative institution central to the production of gender unequal social interactions and the underrepresentation of female legislators in this workplace. This unequal status requires that female legislators navigate their workplace strategically.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (228 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Daisy Gonzales
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