Women’s Political Representation and Participation

Do female political leaders serve as role models: Lessons from Asia

Published first online in Political Research Quarterly January 22, 2018

Despite vast research on women’s descriptive representation, little is known about its influence on women’s political engagement in East and Southeast Asia where gender norms are different from those in other parts of the world. I theorize that the discrepancy between women’s political and social rights in the region makes it difficult for women to envision themselves as equal to their male counterparts to play a “man’s game” even when they see female political leaders. Using a multi-level modeling analysis with data from the Asian Barometer Survey and various additional sources, I examine the impact of female parliamentarians in the region and find that they significantly reduce women’s political engagement. My results suggest that the female legislators’ role model effect found in existing literature on western democracies does not apply to East and Southeast Asia. Instead, female political leaders generate a backlash effect on women’s political engagement. This research raises implications for the role of context in the effectiveness of women’s symbolic representation and calls for further exploration on the connection between women’s symbolic and descriptive representation.

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Do Government Positions Held by Women Matter? A Cross-National Examination of Female Ministers’ Impact on Women’s Political Participation

Published first online in Politics & Gender July 19, 2016.

Current research shows that female legislators serve as role models for women. Understudied is how and the extent to which female ministers inspire women to participate in politics. We argue that with their high visibility and greater ability to influence policy, female ministers also serve as role models, but that their influence differs depending on the form of political engagement. Using the World Values Survey and additional national-level variables, we employ multilevel modeling techniques to explore how women in the cabinet influence various forms of women’s political engagement. We find that the proportion of women in the cabinet has a stronger effect on participation than the proportion of women in parliament.  All else equal, a higher proportion of women in the cabinet increases women’s conventional participation (voting and party membership), petition-signing, or engagement in peaceful demonstrations.  However, it does not influence women’s participation in strikes or boycotts.  Our findings add to current studies of women’s political representation, in which ministerial representation is often underexplored or not differentiated from parliamentary representation, and in differentiating among various forms of participation. It suggests that future research should consider examining a wider variety of women’s political roles in other areas of the political arena.

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Patterns in Gender Gaps in Political Participation Across Asia

A considerable number of studies have examined gender gaps in political participation in western democracies. Understudied is how such gaps exist in Asia and the extent to which these gaps have persisted or narrowed throughout time. Using the 2010 Asian Barometer Survey, this paper evaluates the gender gaps i multiple forms of political participation. It also investigates the demographics and political attitudes at the individual level that may shape individuals’ propensity to participate in various political actions. Cross-national gender differences in political participation are found across Asia. My findings suggest that patterns in gender gaps in certain forms of political participation reflect those found in western contexts while the influence of social characteristics on Asians’ political behavior differ from those found in western contexts. This study provides implications for how distinct forms of political participation may mean for the demographic development in Asia.


Reconceptualizing Gender Equality in Political Science: an Intersectional Approach with Nancy Fraser’s Three R’s

In social sciences where quantitative methods are commonly employed, scholars could easily overlook the importance of gender as a category and as a process (Beckwith 2005). I explore the gap between viewing women merely as a subject and understanding the constructions and institutionalization of gender in which computing technologies are used. Gender disparity exists in various institutions and does not translate across all levels of hierarchy—a high level of labor participation among women does equate to access to the highest level of decision-making.  Thus, it is not adequate to examine only one aspect of integration of women when conceptualizing gender equality. I draw on Fraser’s theory of redistribution, recognition, and representation and advocate a multifaceted understanding of gender equality. I also challenge the shortcomings of identifying individuals based on just gender in statistical analyses as it often fails to recognize that not all women experience marginalizations/privileges the same way.  As race, class, and disability are embedded in gender equality politically, socially, and economically, I suggest intersectionality as a paradigm to answer questions that were unanswerable in traditional statistical models and to enhance theoretical grounding and establish a more comprehensive framework of gender equality.


I also research on immigration and social movements.