Women’s Political Representation and Participation

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Patterns in Gender Gaps in Political Participation Across Asia

Published first online in International Political Science Review on August 6, 2020

Recent scholarship shows that the gender gap in political activity has diminished, particularly in western societies. Still unknown is how gender matters for political participation in Asia. Using the 2010 Asian Barometer Survey, this article analyzes the gender gap in multiple forms of political participation in 13 countries. It also investigates how individual-level characteristics mediate the differences in men’s and women’s political participation. The article shows that Asian men and women overwhelmingly vote at an equal rate in elections, but gender gaps persist in other types of political actions. This study shows that gender remains the strongest predictor of political participation and suggests that Asian women remain marginalized in the political arena. The results provide implications for how to progress gender equality in the region.

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

Published first online in Political Research Quarterly on 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.

Do Government Positions Held by Women Matter? A Cross-National Examination of Female Ministers’ Impact on Women’s Political Participation (with Lee Ann Banaszak)

Published first online in Politics & Gender on 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.


How Do Gender and Disability Intersect in Candidate Evaluations? (with Stefanie Reher)

Women are overwhelmingly underrepresented in most political institutions across the world. Current studies focus on the role of gender stereotypes in how voters evaluate female candidates as a way to explain the underrepresentation of women. Unknown, however, is how candidate gender intersects with disability in shaping how individuals perceive political candidates. Through a survey experiment with a conjoint design in the UK we investigate how candidate gender and disability influence voters’ perceptions of candidates as competent and compassionate as well as candidates’ policy-specific competences and their ideological positions. The findings suggest that, while gender by itself has limited effects, candidate disability influences how voters perceive their personality traits, policy competences, and ideological beliefs. Importantly, some disability stereotypes seem to be applied more to male than female candidates, suggesting that intersectional approaches to studying voter perceptions and candidate competition are vital.

Hereditary Politics: The Role of Gender and Kinship in Voters’ Evaluations of Political Candidates (with Kenneth McElwain)

Extant scholarship shows that voters use gender stereotypes to evaluate political candidates. Unknown, however, is how political candidate’s gender intersects with family connection in shaping voters’ perceptions of candidates. Using survey experiments with a conjoint design Japan and Taiwan, we investigate the impact of candidate gender and kinship on voters’ evaluations of candidates as competent, compassionate, and progressive leaders. We also analyze how voters’ own identities and experiences shape their perceptions of candidates. Taking a comparative approach, we argue that gender and kinship affect voters’ evaluations of candidates and that this effect could be context-specific. Not only does this study fill a gap in existing literature on the effect of stereotypes on attributions of candidate competencies, but it also offers implications for policymakers, political parties, civil society organizations, the public, and – importantly – female politicians with family connections themselves to combat biased evaluations of candidates.

Constraints on Women Politicians’ Role Model Effects: Evidence from Africa (with Kim Yi Dionne)

Female political leaders inspire women to engage in politics — but not everywhere. In this study, we examine how context can blunt the impact of women’s representation on women’s political engagement. Using a multi- level model, we analyze survey data from 33 African countries to study female politicians’ role model effect on women’s political interest and political participation. We find that only in contexts where women’s political status does not outstrip women’s social status will women’s representation be associated with greater political engagement. This role model effect only holds for certain types of political engagement. For example, while we find women’s representation associated with women’s reports of discussing politics, we find no association between women’s representation and women’s reported voting behavior. This study suggests an important link between female politicians’ role model effect and the context in which female citizens are situated. Our results have implications for understanding how women’s political representation could unintentionally create a backlash in women’s political engagement.

Limited Democracy? The Impact of Democratization on Women’s Political Participation (with Wonjun Song)

Gender equality is considered a core component of democracy. Yet, most literature examining the gendered impact of democratization focuses on its influence on women’s political representation and empowerment. Understudied is how democratic experiences shape other aspects of gender equality, such as women’s political participation. Using the four latest waves of the World Values Survey, this paper investigates the effect of democracy on various forms of women’s political participation in 48 countries. We hypothesize that the longer a country experiences democracy, the more likely women are to engage in politics. We also hypothesize that the impact of electoral democracy and liberal democracy differ across various types of political action. A multilevel analysis finds that democratic experiences have no impact on women’s formal political participation but lead to higher women’s informal participation. Our findings also show that electoral democracy is not associated with women’s increased formal participation while liberal democracy is associated with increased women’s informal participation. Our analysis raises implications for the meaning and influence of democratization on gender equality, particularly in a comprehensive and unbiased form that gives women an opportunity to express their political preference via different venues.

Protesting for the Vote: How Suffragists Secured the Vote in the U.S. (with Mona-Morgan Collins)