WAPPP Seminar Series: The State of Women’s Participation and Empowerment: New Challenges to Gender Equality


Thursday, February 4, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Hosted Online

Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Pippa Norris | Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). It is therefore timely to take stock of the overarching picture of the state of women’s participation and empowerment in public life. Part I summarizes and captures relevant normative and legal policy frameworks and compares the conceptual and empirical interconnections among the three focus areas of the priority theme: women’s participation in civic society, their empowerment in political decision-making, and the elimination of violence against women in public life.

The results of the analysis suggest that when women’s participation and empowerment are understood as multidimensional, evidence suggests that progress across all pillars has not advanced at the same pace worldwide. Progress in women’s participation and empowerment is limited by the continued prevalence of socially conservative cultural attitudes and by persistent gender gaps in women’s civic engagement, their representation in legislative and executive office, and their impact in transforming the public policy agenda. In many places, advancement towards gender equality in public life has commonly faltered and stagnated in recent years – or else even deteriorated – thereby falling well short of the world’s commitments to advancing fundamental principles of women’s empowerment and participation. In short, warning signs suggest that the world has been entering a chillier climate for advancing gender equality women’ rights during the 21st century.


Pippa Norris, the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at HKS, and Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Government, has taught at Harvard for more than a quarter century. A comparative political scientist, her work focuses on democracy, public opinion and elections, political communications, and gender politics aroound the world. Google Scholar ranks her 5th worldwide in political science citations, with an H index of 104, the SSRN ranks her in the top 5% of scholars across all disciplines, and Ioannidis et al (2019) rank her as the most cited political scientist in the world.

Major honors recognizing her work include the Johan Skytte prize (known informally as the 'Nobel' prize in political science), the Karl Deutsch prize, the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate, the Sir Isaiah Berlin Lifetime Achievement Award, fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Samuel Eldersfeld Lifetime Career Achievement Award, the Charles E. Merriam Award, the George Hallet Award, the Brown Medal for Democracy, the Doris Graber award, and honorary doctorates from Edinburgh, Bergen, Leuphena, and Warwick universities, amongst other awards.

She has published around fifty books (many subsequently translated into dozens of languages). These include Strengthening Electoral Integrity (CUP 2017), Why Elections Fail (2015), Why Electoral Integrity Matters (2014), Making Democratic Governance Work: The Impact of Regimes on Prosperity, Welfare and Peace (2012), Democratic Deficits: Critical Citizens Revisited (2011), Cosmopolitan Communications (with Inglehart, 2009), Driving Democracy (2008), Radical Right (2005), Sacred and Secular (with Inglehart, 2004, 2010, winner of the 2005 Virginia Hodgkinson Research Prize), Electoral Engineering (2004), Rising Tide (with Inglehart, 2003), Democratic Phoenix (2002), Digital Divide (2001), A Virtuous Circle (2000) (winner of the 2006 Doris A. Graber prize for the best book in political communications), and Political Recruitment (winner of the George Hallet prize). The latest is Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Populist Authoritarianism (CUP 2019, with Inglehart).