American Sociological Association

Making Volunteer-based Democracy “Work”: Gendered Coping Strategies in a Citizen Legislature

How do state legislators working in a volunteer political institution cope with work and family responsibilities? This article complicates the conventional notion of work-family conflict by illustrating how another dimension of work, performed voluntarily in the political sphere, is managed in concert with paid employment and domestic responsibilities. Based on interviews conducted with state representatives in 2014, we analyze the patterns of work-family conflict in a “citizen” legislature. We find that working under nearly voluntary conditions results in a variety of coping strategies that are uniquely structured by an absence of salaries and administrative resources. Gender constrains the range of coping strategies available to women legislators in practice and has implications for women’s representation in political organizations. Our findings make a sociological case for expanding how we think about work and family mechanisms that affect women’s representation in politics.