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Women Leaders as Role Models for Women

- December 17, 2007

bq. One argument advanced in favor of descriptive representation is that female politicians serve as role models, inspiring other women to political activity. While previous research finds female role models affect women’s psychological engagement, few studies report an impact on women’s active participation, and none have done so in cross-national research. Our work also is the first to consider whether the impact of female role models is, as the term implies, greater among the young. Using three cross-national datasets, we find that where there are more female members of parliament (MPs), adolescent girls are more likely to discuss politics with friends and to intend to participate in politics as adults, and adult women are more likely to discuss and participate in politics. The presence of female MPs registers the same effect on political discussion regardless of age, but the impact on women’s political activity is far greater among the young than the old.

This is from Christina Wolbrecht and David Campbell. The paper is here (gated) or here.

Other facts about gender, representation, and political participation:

1) A list of women currently serving in the U.S. Congress.

2) 18 countries have gender quotas for parties or reserved seats for women in their national legislatures, according to Mala Htun (paper here, gated).

3) In a large 2001-2002 survey of Americans with careers from which candidates often emerge (law, business, education, politics), 59% of men and 43% of women had considered running for higher office. This gap shrank, but did not disappear, among those who considered themselves qualified or highly qualified to run. This is from work by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox (a gated paper here; book here).

4) From the 2004 American National Election Study, here is the percentage of men and women who reported each of the following acts of political participation:

table on gender and participation.PNG