Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Engstrom, Richard L.; Day, Christine L.

Second Advisor

Rosenblum, Marc R.


United States federal law regulating leaves of absence for maternity-related purposes pales in comparison to other nations' policies, an observation only recently receiving attention from political scientists. Providing an understanding of how maternity leave is handled by individual organizations in the United States only, a quantitative study is conducted that examines local variation in policy formulation. Employee leave due to maternity is primarily a women's issue and its treatment will vary depending on the socio-political context that the policy dictating the leave is found in. Three main determinants of a policy's level of comprehensiveness are identified as being the political representation of women on local legislative bodies, the bureaucratic representation of women in their place of employment, and the level of women's movement activity in the community. Moreover, the gendered context of the organization is considered by comparing two historically distinct institutions on the gender continuum, public education and law enforcement. After analysis involving a national comparison of public school district and police department maternity leave policies, it was found that the presence of the women's movement in a community significantly impacts the dependent variable, policy comprehensiveness. The effects of political and bureaucratic representation, however, seem to differ between police departments and school districts. In consideration of the most comprehensive policies found, it seems police departments are highly influenced by larger proportions of women officers whereas women teachers might be at a disadvantage precisely because of their over-representation in school districts. Seemingly counterintuitive, this finding suggests that gendered institutions are predicated on more than just women's presence. Evidence that maternity leave policy in individual U.S. institutions is a product of the gendered culture of the organization was found by observing the differential impact of political and social variables on police departments and school districts.


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