Gender in Politics

Although women can vote and run for public office in nearly every country, in 2021, they accounted for only 25 percent of parliamentarians worldwide and served as head of state or head of government in twenty-four countries.

Current research posits numerous explanations for the lack of women in leadership roles, including gender discrimination, lack of female role models, aversion to competitive environments, family responsibilities, and social norms. What are the interventions that address these challenges in how we expect women and leaders to behave and increase women’s political aspirations?

Gender Quotas

Power-seeking behavior, even when unintentional, hurts female political candidates but helps male candidates. Seat reservations for female elected officials make communities more likely to associate women with leadership and vote for women in the future. Reserving political seats for women increases female electoral participation and improves governments' responsiveness to women’s policy concerns. Yet, in the corporate sector, quotas have demonstrated mixed outcomes. In Norway, quotas for corporate boards increased gender diversity, but imposed costs on firms and shareholders, while another study found that quotas, or affirmative action, increased women's willingness to compete in competitive mixed-gender environments, closing the gender gap and resulting in the more qualified candidates, men and women alike, applying for competitive positions.

 

Modeling Female Leadership

Women in leadership positions have a multiplying effect: Repeated exposure to female elected officials improves perceptions of female leaders and leads to future electoral gains for women. Female role models in leadership positions help adolescent girls to aspire to leadership.

 

Training Programs

Mentorship, confidence building, media training, and political campaign education are all effective tools to increase adolescent girls’ and women’s political aspirations and efficacy despite structural obstacles. The Female Political Representation & Intervention Impact Map (2021) below displays the percentage of parliamentary seats that are held by women in lower-house chambers around the world. The interactive tool was created and designed using the latest data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Together with these percentages, which show global female political representation, we can visualize how programs based on evidence-based insights—such as From Harvard Square to the Oval Office and its inspired programs—may help increase the number of female-held seats around the world.

Political Representation & Intervention Map

05778896277bab19a06fea97262b418b