What is it about?

Why are there national legislatures with few women present, and others where the share of women is relatively high? In this article I use a large cross-national sample of national legislatures. Differences in the share of women in national legislatures are associated with differences in attitudes to women as political leaders -- culture. Once regional or cultural differences are accounted for, voluntary party quotas at the national level do not appear to be associated with a larger share of women in national parliaments.

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Why is it important?

It is a core principle of liberal democracies that they are inclusive and all major groups in society should participate in governance. Quotas are often suggested as an institutional feature to render legislatures more representative of the population.


The inclusion of women in national legislatures and governments is often used as a test of liberal democracies. One reason is that the data are readily available. The literature continues to focus on institutional features like the electoral system and quotas as if these were externally assigned. My results suggest that researching the origins of quotas and the implementation merits more attention.

Didier Ruedin
Universite de Neuchatel

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This page is a summary of: The Representation of Women in National Parliaments: A Cross-national Comparison, European Sociological Review, September 2010, Oxford University Press (OUP), DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcq050.
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