Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Benjamin C Brown

Second Advisor

Kabria Baumgartner

Third Advisor

Nicole Fox


From 1986 through 1988, Iowa adopted and strengthened a gender balance law that required men and women be equally represented on state boards and commissions. In 2009, Iowa extended this law to also require its counties, municipalities, and school districts to gender balance their boards and commissions. Iowa’s law remains unique in the United States. Through archival research and interviews, my research investigates how advocates navigated the ideological landscape associated with this policy issue. My research unveils the mechanisms that substantially deradicalized gender balance in Iowa, enabling its passage and shifting Iowans’ perceptions of gender, governance, and affirmative action—disembedding gender segregation, normatizing and institutionalizing gendered representation practices, and prioritizing an ideology of good governance. Based on my findings and analyses, I argue for reconceptualizing ideology through navigation theory—actors simultaneously hold multiple complementary and competing ideologies and must negotiate how these ideologies are (de)activated, (de)prioritized, and interpreted and applied to the issue under consideration. In Iowa, advocates employed collective action frame management to facilitate and steer this navigation such that a majority of legislators voted for and governors signed these affirmative action legislation.