by Liz Entman Sep. 21, 2018, 8:37 AM
To conduct their study, the researchers varied the gender composition of a hypothetical bipartisan legislative committee and the decision it made about a policy impacting women’s rights.
The legislative committee was either all male or gender-balanced, and the choice on the docket was either to increase or decrease penalties for workplace sexual harassment. Since the victims of workplace harassment are overwhelmingly female, a decision to increase penalties signified a positive impact for women, while the decision to decrease the penalties would signify a negative impact.
The presence of women legitimizes legislative decisions
For each of the four possible conditions, the survey respondents were asked whether the decision was right for all citizens, whether it was right for women specifically and how fair it was to women.
They found that the public was substantially more likely to perceive a decision negatively impacting women as fair when it was made by a gender balanced committee than when the same decision was made by an all-male committee. The gender composition had no effect on what people thought about the fairness of the decision when it positively impacted women.
While the presence of women in the committee was more likely to increase the perceived legitimacy of the antifeminist decision for everyone, the effect was twice as strong for men.