What is it about?

Female politicians in western democracies serve as role models by inspiring women and girls to participate in politics - traditionally "a man's game." This paper, however, shows that female MPs in Asia generate a backlash effect - they discourage Asian women’s political engagement.

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Why is it important?

Women's representation is coveted because it is believed to have the ability change the face and rules of the political arena. However, it is equally crucial to consider how female politicians could transform societal gender norms. My findings show that female MPs do not always motivate women to engage in politics. This backlash effect could be a result of the large discrepancy between Asian women’s political status and social status. Women could be reluctant to engage in politics when their everyday experiences with gender-based prejudice/discrimination do not diminish despite the increase in women's political presence.


I hope that this article makes people think about the significance of female political leaders beyond their role in formal institutions. As female MPs are often expected to represent women's interests, we also need to consider what such representation means to other aspects of gender equality besides women's political rights and access. Then we can know what it really takes for female MPs to be role models.

Dr Shan-Jan Sarah Liu
Newcastle University

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This page is a summary of: Are Female Political Leaders Role Models? Lessons from Asia, Political Research Quarterly, January 2018, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1065912917745162.
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