In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Institutional Factors Affecting Women’s Political Engagement

  • Introduction
  • Nonstate Institutions and Women’s Engagement

Political Science Institutional Factors Affecting Women’s Political Engagement
Vera Heuer, Gabriela Rangel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0310


For decades, women were actively excluded from the political arena. As suffrage expanded around the world, women’s rights activists celebrated a major step toward gender equality in the political arena. Yet the gender gap in political engagement still persists to this day. Although in some countries, women are now found to turn out to vote at rates similar to men (and in industrialized countries, women may even vote at higher rates), they are still less likely to participate in many other types of political activities. Scholars have long investigated the factors influencing women’s political engagement. Early research focused heavily on individual level factors—most often lack of access to resources or informal networks—as determinants of the gender gap. A burgeoning body of literature, however, has identified institutions as an important factor influencing women’s political engagement. Thus this bibliography focuses on those institutional determinants of women’s political engagement defined as any type of political activity that nonelite women take part in. This includes voting, participating in campaigns, and engaging in demonstrations or protests, but also more cognitive aspects of engagement, such as political interest and political knowledge. This bibliography does not focus on the impact of institutions on women’s access or election into political office, as there is extensive literature on institutional determinants and women’s representation, which falls outside of the scope of women’s engagement as nonstate actors. The research outlined here, however, does consider a variety of institutional factors that influence women’s engagement. The bibliography begins by reviewing the literature on how the structures of the political system—including Regime Type, electoral rules, and quotas—impact women’s engagement. It then discusses how institutions can indirectly influence women’s political attitudes and behavior, by reviewing the impact of the composition of institutions on women’s engagement. That section is followed by a set of research that shows how institutional outcomes—namely Policy Outcomes and Institutional Support—influence various forms of political participation, and concludes with examples of nonstate institutions and their impact on women’s engagement.


A variety of resources are available to those interested in the topic of women’s political engagement and institutional design. This section provides information on valuable resources including journals, Data Sources, and comprehensive books/edited volumes. Although some resources are entirely dedicated to the study of gender (for instance, the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy or the Women in National Parliaments Database), others have a more general scope (for example, the Comparative Political Studies journal) but have identified both institutional design and gender as crucial variables to understanding broader patterns of political behavior.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.