Speaking Up, Speaking More? Female Participation in Congressional Committees

Studies of descriptive representation often examine the gender composition of political institutions, finding that women sometimes behave differently as legislators. Additionally, experimental research consistently shows that women are less likely to speak in group settings when there are fewer women present and the group is making majority decisions. We build on this work and ask how the percentage of women on a committee affects the propensity of women to participate in Congressional hearings. Using a generalized difference-in-difference design and a text data set of Congressional committee hearing transcripts, we find that the percent of women on a committee does not have a statistically significant effect on how much women participate in their committee’s hearings. Additionally, we show that the gender composition of a committee does not affect the percent of positive or negative words by a member or other measures of cooperation, such as yielding one’s time to the chair. These results suggest that female representatives do not rely on the number of other women when it comes to vocalizing their opinions in committee hearings, and that the gender composition of congressional committees does not hinder female participation during the committee process.