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Center for Policy Studies

Public Affairs Discussion Group

Election 2012: Twenty Years After the "Year of the Woman."

Karen Beckwith, Ph.D. - Flora Stone Mather Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University
Friday April 6, 2012
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

The 1992 U.S. national election was called by some "the year of the woman," as 24 women were newly elected to the House of Representatives - as many new women as had been elected over the previous decade. In 1993 there were 48 women in the House and 7 in the Senate, compared to 30 representatives and 7 senators in 1991.

Most of what we hear about women in American politics this year seems to emphasize the "gender gap" in support for the two parties, with some special attention to how comments by certain Republican candidates might be interpreted. Yet the role of gender in politics includes who exercises power, not just how women might choose between male candidates. So, twenty years later, what are the trends for women holding elective office in the United States?

A few things are obvious. We have had a female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. The position of Secretary of State, interestingly, may be becoming somewhat gendered (three of the last four appointees have been women). In the latest count I could find, 78 women are serving in the House of Representatives and 17 in the Senate. Those are significant increases from 1992, but may not seem like much after 20 years. Women in office are heavily disproportionately Democrats, as has been true at least since 1992.

What does this mean, and what are the prospects for the future? Our colleague Karen Beckwith is a leading scholar on the topic of women's access to political office, not just in the United States but around the world. Join us to discuss what is happening and why.

Very best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest...

Karen Beckwith joined our faculty as Flora Stone Mather Professor of Political Science in 2006. She received her B.A. from the University of Kentucky (1972) and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Syracuse University (1977, 1982). Teaching primarily in the areas of US politics, political movements, and women, gender, and politics, she has special interests in the United States and West Europe, particularly Britain and Italy.

Professor Beckwith has served as President of the American Political Science Association’s Women and Politics Research Section. She became the founding editor, with Lisa Baldez (Dartmouth College), of Politics & Gender, the section's journal; and has also been co-editor of the Gender and Politics Series of the Oxford University Press. Among her current research is an international project, funded by the European Consortium on Political Research, investigating Gender & Executive Leadership.

In October of 2007 she convened a research conference, funded by a CWRU Presidential Initiative Grant for Interdisciplinary Studies, Toward a Comparative Politics of Gender: Advancing the Discipline along Interdisciplinary Boundaries. Conference participants included scholars from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The results of the conference were published as a ten-article symposium in Perspectives on Politics, 8 (1), March 2010 ( Professor Beckwith’s article, “Comparative Politics and the Logics of a Comparative Politics of Gender,” introduces the symposium.

Some of her other research includes “Interests, Issues and Preferences: Women’s Interests and Epiphenomena of Activism,” Politics & Gender, 7 (3), September 2011 (; Political Women and American Democracy, with co-editors Christina Wolbrecht and Lisa Baldez (Cambridge University Press, 2008); Women’s Movements Facing the Reconfigured State, with co-editors Lee Ann Banaszak and Dieter Rucht (Cambridge, 2003), and American Women and Political Participation (Greenwood Press, 1986).

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convene each Friday when classes are in session in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.

Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:

April 13: Russia’s Presidential Election. Andrew Barnes, Associate Professor of Political Science, Kent State University

April 20: TBA

April 27: Obama and Alinsky, or: What Happens When a President Thinks Like a Community Organizer. Justin Vaughn, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Cleveland State University
April 3, 2012

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Upcoming Events

Deng Xiaoping and the Opening of China

Ezra Vogel, Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at Harvard University, Tuesday April 10, 2012, 4:30-6pm, Room 108, Mandel Center, Case Western Reserve University. Free and Open to the Public. Sponsored by Asian Studies Program and co-sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and the Department of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University.

Perhaps no person in the 20th century affected more people or had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. Drawing from his latest book, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, award-winning social scientist Ezra Vogel argues that the economic reforms instituted by the Chinese leader resulted in more people rising out of poverty than in any other period. Presiding over unprecedented economic expansion and engagement with the West, but also the authoritarian crackdown in Tiananmen Square, Deng was single-minded in his drive to modernize his county. Called "a masterful new history of China's reform era" by the Washington Post, Vogel's 2011 accounting of the parallel rise of Deng and the world's second-biggest economy provides the basis of the lecture.

Party and Ideology

John Zaller, Professor of Political Science at UCLA, Tuesday April 17, 2012, 4:30-6pm, Room 309, Clark Hall, Case Western Reserve University. Free and Open to the Public. Sponsored by the Center for Policy Studies at Case Western Reserve University.

Anyone who has watched the bitter competition between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress in recent years, or the fight to win the Republican nomination for President this year, might be wondering how to explain the current political party system in the United States. It looks like a period of deep ideological cleavages between the parties, and pretty strict enforcement of some form of ideological correctness at least in one of them. Yet for decades or even centuries scholars of politics have argued that ideological divisions were relatively weak in our elections and legislative process. What is happening, and what has happened?

This may be the central question for understanding the current state of American politics. So it will be a special pleasure to welcome to campus, on April 17, one of the leading and most original scholars of both parties and public opinion in the country, John Zaller.

April 2012






































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