Women on the Sidelines: Women's Representation on Committees in Latin American Legislatures


  • We would like to thank Lisa Baldez, Mark Jones, Rick Matland, Scott Morgenstern, Peter Siavelis, and Donley Studlar for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article and assistance with country-specific and more general questions. In addition, we thank Brian Crisp and Mark Jones for allowing us to use committee data they collected in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. National Science Foundation Grant # Y460895 funded collection of the data used here.

Roseanna Michelle Heath is a Doctoral Candidate of Political Science, Texas A&M University, MS 4348, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (rheath@polisci.tamu.edu). Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Mississippi, P.O. Box 1848, University, MS 38677-1848 (schwindt@olemiss.edu). Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson is Associate Professor of Political Science, Texas A&M University, MS 4348, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (e339mt@polisci.tamu.edu).


This article explores how new groups can be marginalized after they gain representation in the legislature. We use data from six Latin American legislatures to examine the effect of institutional and political factors on how traditionally dominant male political leaders distribute scarce political resources—committee assignments—to female newcomers. In general, we find that women tend to be isolated on women's issues and social issues committees and kept off of power and economics/foreign affairs committees as the percentage of legislators who are women increases, when party leaders or chamber presidents control committee assignments, and when the structure of the committee system provides a specific committee to deal with women's issues. Thus, to achieve full incorporation into the legislative arena, newcomers must do more than just win seats. They must change the institutions that allow the traditionally dominant group to hoard scarce political resources.