Political Science Electoral Institutions and Women’s Representation
by
Michael FitzGerald, Melody E. Valdini
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0299

Introduction

While there are many factors that drive women’s descriptive representation (i.e., the percentage of women in the legislature) the electoral institutions generate some of the most powerful and consistent effects. In the first breaths of this literature, the focus was firmly on the impact of majoritarian electoral systems versus proportional representation (PR) systems on women’s descriptive representation. Since then, the literature has grown to engage broader ideas regarding the complicated nature of analyzing institutions in different cultural contexts and under different social conditions. Particularly in the later decades of the 20th century, scholars found that structural factors, such as economic disparities between men and women and the balance of women in careers that are typical paths to political office, were important to consider in concert with electoral rules. More recently, as more women gain access to the economic elite, the literature has focused more on cultural factors such as the historical legacies of Communism and the general societal reactions to women’s leadership. These non-institutional factors are now widely engaged as an important component of understanding why and to what extent we can expect an electoral system to generate a certain outcome. Beyond the impact of the electoral system itself, there is also relevant literature that engages how electoral institutions such as gender quotas and candidate selection processes affect women’s descriptive representation. There is wide variation in the design of gender quotas as well as candidate selection processes, just as there is in the design of electoral systems, and therefore a fuller understanding of the relationship between electoral institutions and women’s representation requires consideration of the interaction of candidate selection procedures, gender quotas, and electoral systems. For example, the presence of a placement mandate (i.e., a requirement stipulating where on the list women candidates must be positioned) or a decentralized candidate selection process each has a different effect on women’s representation in an electoral system that includes a preference vote. The sections below highlight some of the existing literature on electoral institutions and their impact on women’s descriptive representation. This is by no means an exhaustive list but does offer insight into the general themes and research areas that are common in this field of study.

The Birth of the Field: The Impact of Plurality/Majority Versus Proportional Representation Systems

In the mid-20th century, scholars began to take note of the positive relationship between proportional representation electoral systems and the proportion of women legislators. But the critical step forward—and arguably the birth of this field—was when Wilma Rule and Pippa Norris introduced systematic analyses that engaged both multiple elements of the electoral system as well as the cultural and structural contexts. Their work established one of the most fundamental expectations of this research area that still holds true: the proportional electoral system is generally associated with increased numbers of women elected. As the field moved forward, scholars introduced more variables that moderated this relationship in new ways, including whether the list in PR systems is open or closed, the level of the electoral threshold and party magnitude, and the personal vote.

The Relative Importance of Contextual Factors and Methodological Approaches

While there is broad consensus that the design of electoral systems matters for women’s descriptive representation, there is ongoing debate among scholars over the relative importance of electoral institutions compared to contextual factors. Rule 1987, Norris 1985, and Rule and Zimmerman 1994 find that both electoral institutions and socioeconomic context are important for understanding women’s underrepresentation, although Rule 1994 extends this research by arguing that the political, social, and economic environment is secondary to the effect of electoral institutions. However, Matland 1998 and Rosen 2013 make the case that the significance of electoral institutions for women’s representation is conditioned by the extent of democratic consolidation and economic development. Hence, the arguments put forth in this discussion are necessarily inflected by the methods employed in studies of women’s representation. Salmond 2006 is in agreement with Rosen 2013 that large cross-national studies tend to overestimate the influence of electoral institutions. In an attempt to reconcile competing conclusions from differently designed research, Krook 2010 proposes a medium-N approach to the study of women’s representation.

  • Krook, Mona Lena. “Women’s Representation in Parliament: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis.” Political Studies 58.5 (2010): 886–908.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2010.00833.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces a medium-N method, qualitative comparative analysis, to the comparative study of women’s representation in order to reconcile competing conclusions of large-N and small-N research.

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  • Matland, Richard E. “Women’s Representation in National Legislatures: Developed and Developing Countries.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 23.1 (1998): 109–125.

    DOI: 10.2307/440217Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tests factors that have significant effects on women’s representation in advanced industrial democracies on less developed countries and finds that there is a certain development threshold were these factors become significant. In less developed countries, PR systems, women’s labor force participation, and cultural gender roles are all not significant, arguably because at lower levels of development women’s interests do not enjoy a critical mass of support in the public sphere.

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  • Norris, Pippa. “Women’s Legislative Participation in Western Europe.” West European Politics 8.4 (1985): 90–101.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402388508424556Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Western European democracies with a focus on determining the root causes of the differences in women’s legislative representation across these countries. Finds that cultural variables and electoral institutions have the most powerful effect on women’s presence in the legislature.

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  • Rosen, Jennifer. “The Effects of Political Institutions on Women’s Political Representation: A Comparative Analysis of 168 Countries From 1992 to 2010.” Political Research Quarterly 66.2 (2013): 306–321.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912912449698Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Builds on Matland 1998 and its finding of a development threshold with a rigorous test of this hypothesis. Concludes that the effects of electoral institutions vary with level of development, and that generalizations about the consequences of electoral systems on women’s representation should not be made without accounting for developmental differences between groups of countries in cross-national large-N studies.

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  • Rule, Wilma. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 40.3 (1987): 477–498.

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    Explores the relationship between electoral institutions, spanning variants of majoritarian and proportional systems, district magnitude, and socioeconomic context and women’s representation.

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  • Rule, Wilma. “Women’s Underrepresentation and Electoral Systems.” PS: Political Science & Politics 27.4 (1994): 689–692.

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    Argues that electoral systems are the primary cause of variation in women’s representation, while contextual political, economic, and social factors are secondary such that even if these conditions are favorable for women candidates, a hostile electoral system would persist in its detrimental effects on women’s presence in legislatures.

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  • Rule, Wilma, and Joseph Francis Zimmerman. eds. Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

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    Includes discussions of women’s and minority’s underrepresentation in relationship to electoral systems, along with other political, cultural, and structural factors, in twenty case studies spread throughout the world’s regions.

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  • Salmond, Rob. “Proportional Representation and Female Parliamentarians.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 31.2 (2006): 175–204.

    DOI: 10.3162/036298006X201779Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Asserts that purely cross-national analysis of the relationship between electoral systems and women’s level of representation in parliaments tends to overestimate the importance of the choice of electoral institutions. A nonlinear model suggests that although differences in district magnitude are an important influence on the number of women elected, the effect is smaller than previously considered.

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Interaction of Electoral Systems with Gender Stereotypes

While Darcy, et al. 1994 argues that electoral institutions carry more explanatory weight than the individual expression of gender bias by voters or party elites, Fulton 2012 suggests that selectors tend to nominate higher-quality women candidates compared to men candidates—a tendency that if overlooked can obscure the presence of gender bias in voters. The potential for gender stereotypes to manifest in prejudiced behaviors by party elites and voters varies with the design of the electoral system and affects women’s representation in important ways. According to Valdini 2013, candidate gender is particularly influential in electoral systems that create an incentive to differentiate candidates based on personal qualities (the “personal vote”), such as open-list PR with high district magnitude and some single-member plurality systems. As a result, electoral institutions that motivate party-centered competition, such as closed-list PR, decrease the opportunity for voters to act on gender stereotypes and are generally associated with higher levels of women’s representation (Thames and Williams 2010). Indeed, Crowder-Meyer, et al. 2015 in a study of municipal elections in California find that the effect of gender stereotypes on the election of women is moderated by electoral institutions. Not only are ballot structure, electoral formulae, and district magnitude impacted by gender stereotypes, and therefore impactful for women’s presence in legislatures, but Palmer and Simon 1994 as well as Pyeatt and Yanus 2016 present evidence that the geography of electoral districts matters for a district’s “woman-friendliness.” Acker 1992 (p. 567) provides a summary of the theoretical underpinnings of this literature, recognizing that institutions are gendered in their “processes, practices, images and ideologies, and distributions of power.”

  • Acker, Joan. “From Sex Roles to Gendered Institutions.” Contemporary Sociology 21.5 (1992): 565–569.

    DOI: 10.2307/2075528Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that all institutions are gendered. Because electoral institutions were historically developed by men and are currently dominated by men, women’s subordination and exclusion have been built into the normal functions of these institutions.

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  • Crowder-Meyer, Melody, Shana Kushner Gadarian, and Jessica Trounstine. “Electoral Institutions, Gender Stereotypes, and Women’s Local Representation.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 3.2 (2015): 318–334.

    DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2015.1031803Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the mechanisms linking institutions and women’s representation, arguing in a study of municipal-level offices in the state of California that women candidates fare better in district rather than at-large elections and in contests for clerkships rather than city council or mayoral offices. They attribute this outcome to gender stereotypes that view men as more capable leaders.

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  • Darcy, Robert, Susan Welch, and Janet Clark. Women, Elections and Representation. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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    Attributes women’s underrepresentation not to the gender bias of male voters or elites but to institutional variables including the electoral system, candidate selection procedures, and low turnover for incumbents.

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  • Fulton, Sarah A. “Running Backwards and in High Heels: The Gendered Quality Gap and Incumbent Electoral Success.” Political Research Quarterly 65.2 (2012): 303–314.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912911401419Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using a data set of evaluations of incumbents in US congressional seats, presents evidence that the common assumption that women “do as well as men” in elections is flawed. Suggests that the higher standards to which women politicians are held, due to gender stereotypes about leadership ability, constitutes an unobserved variable bias that underlies this assumption. That is, once the quality of women incumbent candidates is accounted for, there is a significant gender gap in vote shares.

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  • Palmer, Barbara, and Dennis Simon. Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling: Women and Congressional Elections. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Argues that the shape of electoral districts influences whether a given district is “women-friendly” or friendly to a particular party, two qualities that do not share identical characteristics.

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  • Pyeatt, Nicholas, and Alixandra B. Yanus. “Shattering the Marble Ceiling: A Research Note on Women‐Friendly State Legislative Districts.” Social Science Quarterly 97.5 (2016): 1108–1118.

    DOI: 10.1111/ssqu.12294Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Follows up Palmer and Simon’s (2008) study by testing an index of women friendliness at the level of US state legislative districts, concluding that the construct is a significant predictor of women’s selection as candidates and election in state legislatures even after controlling for other electoral institutions and cultural factors.

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  • Thames, Frank C., and Margaret S. Williams. “Incentives for Personal Votes and Women’s Representation in Legislatures.” Comparative Political Studies 43.12 (2010): 1575–1600.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414010374017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Moves beyond the PR versus majoritarian debate per se, as defined by district magnitude, to the effect of incentives for candidates to cultivate a personal vote as an explanation for women’s underrepresentation. Concludes that where electoral systems contribute to party-centered elections women’s representation increases compared to systems that motivate candidate-centered campaigns.

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  • Valdini, Melody Ellis. “Electoral Institutions and the Manifestation of Bias: The Effect of the Personal Vote on the Representation of Women.” Politics & Gender 9.1 (2013): 76–92.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X12000700Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the presence of an incentive to cultivate a personal vote, rather than simply the standard PR-versus-majoritarian dichotomy, is key to understanding differences in women’s descriptive representation. Finds that the interaction of the personal vote and cultural bias against female leaders significantly contributes to the underrepresentation of women, as voters use a candidate’s gender as an informational shortcut in candidate-centered electoral environments.

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The Consequences of (Dis)Proportionality on Women’s Representation

The proportionality of an electoral system is defined by how the vote share received by parties corresponds to the distribution of seats in the legislature. The design of electoral systems according to normative objectives regarding proportionality has significant consequences for women’s representation as well, as the wide-ranging—in terms of both the world region and electoral institutions covered—case studies of Ballington and Karam 2005, Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer 2012, and Tremblay 2012 make plain. Much of the literature on electoral system proportionality agrees that PR systems have a positive relationship with women’s presence in office in comparison to majoritarian systems (but see Matland and Taylor 1997, cited under Proportional Representation Systems, for some nuance to this point). The mechanisms by which PR electoral systems contribute to women’s representation are examined, for example, by Rule 1981 (candidate recruitment), Norris 2006 (district magnitude), and Paxton, et al. 2010 (the complementary effect of gender quotas). But other research, including Matland and Studlar 1996, McAllister and Studlar 2002, and Reynolds 1999, although recognizing the positive effect of PR electoral systems on women’s representation, suggests several institutions that moderate this relationship. Nonetheless, the importance of the proportionality of an electoral system is highlighted by Schwindt-Bayer and Mishler 2005, which finds that such systems increase women’s presence in legislatures and that this descriptive representation has substantial consequences for women’s substantive and symbolic representation.

  • Ballington, Julie, and Azza Karam, eds. Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers. Stockholm: IDEA, 2005.

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    Chapters 2 (Richard E. Matland) and 3 (Drude Dahlerup) provide particularly useful reviews of the consequences of different electoral system and gender quota designs on women’s presence in legislatures. Six case studies spanning diverse regions accompany each chapter.

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  • Kittilson, Miki Caul, and Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer. The Gendered Effects of Electoral Institutions: Political Engagement and Participation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608607.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Composed of cross-national and single case studies, details the consequences of electoral institutions on women’s political participation and representation. Frames the proportionality of electoral systems as moderating the political gender gap and the mobilization of “untapped constituencies.”

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  • Matland, Richard E., and Donley T. Studlar. “The Contagion of Women Candidates in Single-Member District and Proportional Representation Electoral Systems: Canada and Norway.” The Journal of Politics 58.3 (1996): 707–733.

    DOI: 10.2307/2960439Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the substantial gap in women’s representation between SMD systems and PR systems with contagion theory. Finds that PR systems facilitate pressure from small left parties on mainstream parties to nominate more women whereas SMD systems do not have this capacity.

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  • McAllister, Ian, and Donley T. Studlar. “Electoral Systems and Women’s Representation: A Long‐Term Perspective.” Representation 39.1 (2002): 3–14.

    DOI: 10.1080/00344890208523209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a fifty-year study that comprehensively evaluates the relationship between electoral institutions and women’s election to legislatures. Concludes that PR systems, early women’s enfranchisement, and gender quotas are the most important institutional factors affecting women’s representation.

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  • Norris, Pippa. “The Impact of Electoral Reform on Women’s Representation.” Acta Política 41.2 (2006): 197–213.

    DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500151Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the case of the Netherlands, shows how a PR system with a large district magnitude is preferable to other electoral systems in electing women to office. Theorizes how electoral reform of the Dutch nationwide district to a less proportional system should be accompanied with positive action such as candidate quotas or reserved seats to maintain women’s level of representation.

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  • Paxton, Pamela, Melanie M. Hughes, and Matthew A. Painter. “Growth in Women’s Political Representation: A Longitudinal Exploration of Democracy, Electoral System and Gender Quotas.” European Journal of Political Research 49.1 (2010): 25–52.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6765.2009.01886.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Longitudinal study of 110 countries from 1975 to 2000, finding that PR electoral systems and gender quotas significantly and positively affect women’s election to national legislatures.

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  • Reynolds, Andrew. “Women in the Legislatures and Executives of the World: Knocking at the Highest Glass Ceiling.” World Politics 51.4 (1999): 547–572.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0043887100009254Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses a large-N cross-national sample of national legislatures to test a broad range of hypotheses about women’s descriptive representation at the legislative and executive (cabinet) levels. Finds that closed-list PR is the least prohibitive electoral system out of the ten considered, but that party systems and sociocultural variables are important, too.

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  • Rule, Wilma. “Why Women Don’t Run: The Critical Contextual Factors in Women’s Legislative Recruitment.” Western Political Quarterly 34.1 (1981): 60–77.

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    Using both American state legislatures as well as cross-national analyses of legislatures, Rule examines political recruitment and finds that the decision-to-run phase is important for understanding women’s representation. Argues that proportional electoral systems are the most favorable for women’s political recruitment.

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and William Mishler. “An Integrated Model of Women’s Representation.” The Journal of Politics 67.2 (2005): 407–428.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00323.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contributes an empirical analysis of the interrelationships of electoral institutions, descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation of women.

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  • Tremblay, Manon, ed. Women and Legislative Representation: Electoral Systems, Political Parties, and Sex Quotas. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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    This edited volume analyzes the relationship between electoral systems and women’s descriptive representation in national legislatures. Includes numerous case studies of various forms of majoritarian, proportional, and mixed-member systems.

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Plurality/Majority Electoral Systems

In this research area, much of the focus is on the United States, and particularly the regional and local levels. For instance, Rule and Zimmerman 1992 provides a broad treatment of US electoral institutions at the national, state, and local level. In other research on electoral systems within the majoritarian family, two themes are especially prevalent. First, the distinction between single- and multimember districts is common across this research area, with a frequent finding that the single-member district system is the least beneficial for women’s descriptive representation. Much of the early literature engages various aspects of this theme, including Welch and Studlar 1990, Studlar and Welch 1991, Matland and Brown 1992, and more recently King 2002. Moncrief and Thompson 1992 extend the study of SMDs and MMDs to racial and ethnic minorities in addition to women, finding that urban SMDs improve the chances for minority representation in state legislatures while urban MMDs benefit the election of women. Darcy, et al. 1993, Trounstine and Vadini 2008, and John, et al. 2018 contribute to a second theme in which scholars adopt an intersectional perspective entailing the consideration of ethnicity, race, and gender so as to better understand the interdependent nature of bias and its effect on the electoral success of women. Still other research considers the effect majoritarian systems on women’s representation in terms of the type of office (Smith, et al. 2012), and the quality of candidates in open primaries and general elections (Barnes, et al. 2017).

  • Barnes, Tiffany D., Regina P. Branton, and Erin C. Cassese. “A Reexamination of Women’s Electoral Success in Open Seat Elections: The Conditioning Effect of Electoral Competition.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 38.3 (2017): 298–317.

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    Examining US House of Representative primary and general open seat elections from 1994 to 2004, finds that men quality candidates are more likely to win general elections than women quality candidates for both Democrat and Republican parties. Additionally, within Democratic Party primaries, the probability of a women quality candidate winning the nomination decreases as the size of the candidate pool increases.

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  • Darcy, Robert, Charles D. Hadley, and Jason F. Kirksey. “Election Systems and the Representation of Black Women in American State Legislatures.” Women & Politics 13.2 (1993): 73–89.

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    Observes that the underrepresentation of Black Americans in state legislatures is overwhelmingly due to the absence of Black women. Argues that adopting multimember districts would improve the probability of electing Black women candidates compared to single member districts.

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  • John, Sarah, Haley Smith, and Elizabeth Zack. “The Alternative Vote: Do Changes in Single-Member Voting Systems affect Descriptive Representation of Women and Minorities?” Electoral Studies 54 (2018): 90–102.

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    In a study of nonpartisan municipal-level elections in the United States, this article argues that the reduced susceptibility of the alternative vote system (AV) to the spoiler effect and vote splitting compared to SMD systems contributes to an increase in the percentage of minority candidates as well as the probability that a woman of any racial or ethnic identity wins office.

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  • King, James D. “Single-Member Districts and the Representation of Women in American State Legislatures: The Effects of Electoral System Change.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly 2.2 (2002): 161–175.

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    Updates and corroborates the analysis of Moncrief and Thompson 1992 by employing a quasi-experimental method that takes advantage of electoral system reform in four states that replaced MMDs with SMDs and eight states that did not reform their electoral system. The proportion of women in state legislatures was found to have decreased in those systems that adopted SMDs.

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  • Matland, Richard E., and Deborah Dwight Brown. “District Magnitude’s Effect on Female Representation in US State Legislatures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 17.4 (1992): 469–492.

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    Presents support for the argument that multimember districts are preferable to SMDs in electing women because the increase in district magnitude lowers barriers to women’s successful candidacies. Argues that studies finding only a small effect for district magnitude suffer from insufficient data.

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  • Moncrief, Gary F., and Joel A. Thompson. “Electoral Structure and State Legislative Representation: A Research Note.” The Journal of Politics 54.1 (1992): 246–256.

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    Analyzes state legislative election results from ten US states and finds that women are elected more often in urban MMDs than other districts, while African Americans are more often elected in urban SMDs.

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  • Rule, Wilma, and Joseph Zimmerman, eds. United States Electoral Systems: Their Impact on Women and Minorities. New York: Praeger, 1992.

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    In this volume edited by Rule and Zimmerman, the electoral institutions specifically within the United States are examined for their impact on the descriptive representation of women and minorities. Chapters collectively encompass a wide range of electoral institutions at the national, state, and municipal level.

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  • Smith, Adrienne R., Beth Reingold, and Michael Leo Owens. “The Political Determinants of Women’s Descriptive Representation in Cities.” Political Research Quarterly 65.2 (2012): 315–329.

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    Finds evidence in a study of US cities that women are less likely to be elected mayor if the election is a partisan rather than nonpartisan contest but are relatively more likely to be elected if the city council chooses the mayor instead of direct election by voters.

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  • Studlar, Donley T., and Susan Welch. “Does District Magnitude Matter? Women Candidates in London Local Elections.” Western Political Quarterly 44.2 (1991): 457–466.

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    Evaluates the effect of the number of seats in an electoral district on the number of women candidates nominated and the number elected in plurality systems. Results suggest that unlike list PR systems, multimember plurality elections do not have a large positive impact on women’s representation compared to SMDs, although the latter are never helpful themselves.

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  • Trounstine, Jessica, and Melody E. Vadini. “The Context Matters: The Effects of Single‐Member Versus At‐Large Districts on City Council Diversity.” American Journal of Political Science 52.3 (2008): 554–569.

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    Using a mixed-method approach engaging US city councils, this article argues that SMD only improves representation for groups when they are highly concentrated and are a substantial segment of the population. Further, they offer evidence that white women benefit from at-large systems, Black men benefit from SMD systems, and Black women and Latina city council members are unaffected by the choice between district and at-large elections.

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  • Welch, Susan, and Donley T. Studlar. “Multi-Member Districts and the Representation of Women: Evidence from Britain and the United States.” The Journal of Politics 52.2 (1990): 391–412.

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    Examines whether multimember districts in plurality electoral systems improve women’s representation over a system with single member districts. Using evidence from the United States and United Kingdom, finds that MMDs provide only a slightly better institutional environment for women candidates, but this improvement also disappears in some contexts.

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Proportional Representation Systems

In the research that focuses on proportional representation electoral systems, district and party magnitude are often engaged as critical variables in women’s representation. In addition, the effect of the presence of a preference vote in the electoral system (i.e., whether the list is open, flexible, or closed—and when/how that matters for women candidates) is another frequent line of inquiry. Matland and Lilliefeldt 2014 argues that closed-list PR systems are preferable to open lists because voters are not able to “correct” for the perceived overrepresentation of women on party lists, however Golder, et al. 2017 suggests that more open PR systems are associated with greater voter support for women candidates. Yet Wylie 2018, in an extensive study of women’s representation in Brazil, finds that open lists in combination with weakly institutionalized male-dominated parties significantly contribute to women’s underrepresentation. The positive effects of PR on women’s nomination and electoral success may also be suppressed by party norms in candidate selection procedures and incumbent advantage effects, as noted by McGing 2013 in a study of Ireland’s single transferable vote (STV) system, or by party magnitude (the number of seats a party expects to win in a given district) as opposed to district magnitude (the number of seats formally assigned to represent a district) as Matland 1993 and Matland and Taylor 1997 conclude in studies of Norway and Costa Rica. Hence, scholarship such as Beckwith 1992 and Schmidt 2008 in this research area also tends to grapple with the ever-present existential question of “does the electoral system really matter?” and, further, with examining how the effects of the system are impacted by the cultural and socioeconomic environment for women. In this vein, Roberts, et al. 2013 argues that the positive effect of PR systems on women’s representation is overestimated in cross-national analyses that do not consider electoral institutions as endogenous to the political and social environment. Similarly, Schwindt-Bayer, et al. 2010 suggests that STV systems transmit context rather than have a universal effect on the election of women candidates.

  • Beckwith, Karen. “Comparative Research and Electoral Systems: Lessons from France and Italy.” Women & Politics 12.1 (1992): 1–33.

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    Cautions against large-N cross-national research which overestimates the beneficial impact of PR systems on the representation of women, finding that socioeconomic context and parties are at least as important in explaining women’s underrepresentation.

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  • Golder, Sona N., Laura B. Stephenson, and Karine Van der Straeten, et al. “Votes for Women: Electoral Systems and Support for Female Candidates.” Politics & Gender 13.1 (2017): 107–131.

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    Isolates the effect of electoral system openness from national context using a unique experimental design to compare the effects of three different PR electoral systems on women’s electoral outcomes. Finds that both male and female voters are more likely to support women candidates in more open PR systems, especially the panachage system.

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  • Matland, Richard E. “Institutional Variables Affecting Female Representation in National Legislatures: The Case of Norway.” The Journal of Politics 55.3 (1993): 737–755.

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    Concludes that PR electoral systems with high district magnitude facilitate women’s representation, but the number of seats a party wins—the party magnitude—is a more important variable in explaining the level of women’s presence in the legislature.

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  • Matland, Richard E., and Emelie Lilliefeldt. “The Effect of Preferential Voting on Women’s Representation.” In Representation: The Case of Women. Edited by Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon, and Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson, 79–102. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    This chapter makes the argument that open-list PR systems allow voters to “correct” parties on the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of women on party lists and finds that men tend to benefit from the preference vote more than women.

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  • Matland, Richard E., and Michelle M. Taylor. “Electoral System Effects on Women’s Representation: Theoretical Arguments and Evidence from Costa Rica.” Comparative Political Studies 30.2 (1997): 186–210.

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    In addition to supporting previous findings about the significance of party magnitude as a determinant of women’s representation, this article provides evidence that higher electoral thresholds contribute to greater party magnitudes and thus the election of more women to legislative office.

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  • McGing, Claire. “The Single Transferable Vote and Women’s Representation in Ireland.” Irish Political Studies 28.3 (2013): 322–340.

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    Argues that although the mechanics of single transferable vote systems are beneficial to women candidates compared to majoritarian alternatives, party norms in candidate selection and the incumbency advantage intervene to suppress the effect.

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  • Roberts, Andrew, Jason Seawright, and Jennifer Cyr. “Do Electoral Laws Affect Women’s Representation?” Comparative Political Studies 46.12 (2013): 1555–1581.

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    Challenges the assumption of electoral institutions as exogenous and uses within-country comparisons to examine the influence of electoral rules on women’s representation. Finds that the impact of PR systems has been overestimated by existing research.

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  • Schmidt, Gregory D. “The Election of Women in List PR Systems: Testing the Conventional Wisdom.” Electoral Studies 28.2 (2008): 190–203.

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    Empirically tests hypothesized relationships between electoral institutions—closed lists, high district magnitude, gender quotas, and quotas with placement mandates—and women’s representation in a cross-national sample of democracies with PR systems. Finds that contextual factors rather than differences in electoral institutions (with the exception of placement requirements) have greater explanatory power for the variation in women’s representation.

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., Michael Malecki, and Brian F. Crisp. “Candidate Gender and Electoral Success in Single Transferable Vote Systems.” British Journal of Political Science 40.3 (2010): 693–709.

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    Unlike some other common research designs investigating women’s representation, this study adopts individual candidates as the unit of analysis in a multilevel model that tests for individual, party, and electoral district effects on the success of women candidates in Australia, Ireland, and Malta. Argues that single transferable vote (STV) systems do not have a universal effect on women’s representation but that STV rules “merely translate voters’ sincere preferences.”

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  • Wylie, Kristin N. Party Institutionalization and Women’s Representation in Democratic Brazil. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

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    Using individual candidate-level data as well as interviews with legislators, Wylie argues that the interaction of multiple institutional variables—including the open-list PR electoral rules—with weakly institutionalized, male dominant political parties is the causal root of women’s continuing underrepresentation in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Finds that women’s electoral success increases in this electoral context if there are female party leaders and well-institutionalized parties.

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Mixed-Member Electoral Systems

Because mixed-member electoral systems utilize both a plurality/majority electoral system as well as a proportional representation system to compose a single legislative house, many of the same themes referenced above—such as the effect of district magnitude—are found here. However, because there are two different electoral systems at work at the same time to determine the same legislative house, scholars in this area of research are able to control for contextual factors and thus better isolate the impact of electoral variables—a strategy employed by Moser and Scheiner 2012. Conversely, due in part to the countries that adopted mixed-member systems, a particularly prevalent theme, engaged in Moser 2001 and Kostadinova 2007, has been the impact of post-Communist environments on women’s electoral success. Another central theme in this literature is the question of how the effects of two separate electoral systems may bleed together; that is, because they are used simultaneously, one system can alter the outcomes of the other, thereby “contaminating” it or “spilling over” and producing unusual effects. Davidson-Schmich 2014 and Shin 2014 find evidence of this effect in Germany and South Korea, respectively. This blending effect seems to be particularly pronounced for women’s electoral success when there are gender quotas adopted in the PR tier, such as the case of Germany (as argued by Fortin-Rittberger and Eder 2013). However, Lee 2019, examining the case of South Korea, finds the spillover effect from the PR tier with a gender quota is mitigated by centralized candidate selection procedures. Similarly, Kerevel, et al. 2019 suggests that “best loser” mixed-member systems tend to reduce the mixed-member spillover benefit to women’s representation.

  • Davidson-Schmich, Louise K. “Closing the Gap: Gender and Constituency Candidate Nomination in the 2013 Bundestag Election.” German Politics and Society 32.2 (2014): 86–105.

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    Attempts to explain why the increase in the successful election of women via the PR tier has spilled over into the SMD tier of Germany’s national legislature, despite gender quotas being applied only to party lists. The rise in the number of women incumbents, male incumbent retirement, and the practice of dual candidacies that allow women who successfully won a PR seat in the previous election to be nominated to a safe list position and contest a SMD in the next cycle are offered as reasons for the increase.

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  • Fortin-Rittberger, Jessica, and Christina Eder. “Towards a Gender-Equal Bundestag? The Impact of Electoral Rules on Women’s Representation.” West European Politics 36.5 (2013): 969–985.

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    A longitudinal study of German elections from 1961 to 2009, finding that the adoption of party quotas in the PR tier has had a contamination effect on the SMD tier leading to more women being elected to the Bundestag in both halves of the mixed-member proportional system.

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  • Kerevel, Yann P., Austin S. Matthews, and Katsunori Seki. “Mixed-Member Electoral Systems, Best Loser Rules, and the Descriptive Representation of Women.” Electoral Studies 57 (2019): 153–162.

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    Finds that the “best loser” variant of mixed-member systems, wherein losers of SMD elections are ordered on PR lists according to their performance in the majoritarian tier, reduces the benefit of closed-list PR tier to women’s electoral success.

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  • Kostadinova, Tatiana. “Ethnic and Women’s Representation Under Mixed Election Systems.” Electoral Studies 26.2 (2007): 418–431.

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    Concludes that mixed systems in East Europe provide greater representation for women than pure majoritarian systems but less than pure PR systems. Identifies legal thresholds in the PR tier as a key variable: higher thresholds create “bigger winners” who have more winnable positions to which women can be nominated.

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  • Lee, Young-Im. “The Leaky Pipeline and Sacrificial Lambs: Gender, Candidate Nomination, and District Assignment in South Korea’s National Legislative Elections.” Electoral Studies 59 (2019): 27–38.

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    Using both statistical analysis as well as interviews with politicians in South Korea, this study offers evidence that the spillover effect of gender quotas may be weak. Argues that the top-down, centralized candidate nomination process is disrupting the spillover, as party gatekeepers are placing women candidates in unfavorable electoral contests.

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  • Moser, Robert G. “The Effects of Electoral Systems on Women’s Representation in Post-Communist States.” Electoral Studies 20.3 (2001): 353–369.

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    Compares the proportion of women elected in PR and SMD tiers of four post-Communist countries and finds that unlike consolidated democracies with mixed-member systems, there is no significant difference between the two tiers. Offers political and structural context as a possible explanation for this difference.

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  • Moser, Robert G., and Ethan Scheiner. “How Political Context Shapes the Effect of Electoral Rules on Women’s Representation.” In Electoral Systems and Political Context: How the Effects of Rules Vary Across New and Established Democracies. Edited by Robert G. Moser and Ethan Scheiner, 208–235. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Extends Moser’s (2001) analysis to a broader study of the interaction effect of electoral systems and political context, in particular the extent of democratic consolidation, on women’s presence in national legislatures. Finds that women are more likely to be elected in closed-list PR systems than in SMD elections, but this difference is only significant in established democracies.

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  • Shin, Ki-young. “Women’s Sustainable Representation and the Spillover Effect of Electoral Gender Quotas in South Korea.” International Political Science Review 35.1 (2014): 80–92.

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    Finds a spillover effect wherein the gender quota law applied to the PR tier of the National Assembly indirectly contributes to the election of women in the SMD tier.

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Gender Quotas

While the phrase “electoral institution” is traditionally associated with the general electoral system and its components, another electoral institution that is critically important to women’s representation is the gender quota. A gender quota, most commonly defined as a rule that requires a minimum number of women candidates up for election, can vary dramatically in its design and effectiveness. Further, while quota adoption may be sincerely intended to increase the number of women in the legislature, there are many nationally and internationally based institutional, partisan, and social movement actors who may complicate this purpose. Thus, because of the many nuances of quota adoption, design, and effectiveness, a rich garden of research has grown in this subject area; we include only a brief overview of foundational literature and primarily focus on the gender quota scholarship that directly engages other elements of electoral systems.

General Overviews of Gender Quotas

Research that recognizes and systematically analyzes the adoption of gender quotas as a global phenomenon is highlighted by the description of regional trends, discourses, and summary of quota effectiveness contained in Dahlerup 2005 and Dahlerup and Freidenvall 2005. Krook 2009 presents an extensive framework for understanding multiple and often competing actors and strategies involved in quota adoption and implementation along with in-depth case studies for each major type of gender quota. The literature on gender quotas developed further with installments from Schwindt-Bayer 2009 and Dahlerup and Freidenvall 2010, which engage in the project of evaluating the effects of various quota designs on women’s descriptive, as well as substantive and symbolic, representation. Theoretical contributions are made by Bjarnegård and Zetterberg 2011, which considers how to best design a quota to support women’s sustainable representation, and Murray 2014, who argues for reframing gender quotas from a minimum for women to a maximum for men. Piscopo 2015 also challenges conventional discourses by suggesting that, at least in Latin America, states are actually gender equality activists as evidenced by their implementation of gender quotas and increases in women’s political presence.

  • Bjarnegård, Elin, and Pär Zetterberg. “Removing Quotas, Maintaining Representation: Overcoming Gender Inequalities in Political Party Recruitment.” Representation 47.2 (2011): 187–199.

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    Theoretical analysis that ranks different quota designs according to potential for achieving a sustainable increase in women’s representation after quota removal. Makes the case that legislative and party quotas implemented with list position requirements have the greatest probability of reforming institutionalized candidate recruitment and nomination practices.

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  • Dahlerup, Drude. ed. Women, Quotas and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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    Compiles studies on regional trends in gender quota adoption followed by specific country case studies, analyzing the various discourses and implementation successes and failures surrounding quotas.

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  • Dahlerup, Drude, and Lenita Freidenvall. “Quotas as a ‘Fast Track’ to Equal Representation for Women: Why Scandinavia is No Longer the Model.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 7.1 (2005): 26–48.

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    Summarizes different quota designs and trends in adoption. Coins the “incremental tack” and “fast track” distinction in describing how policies intended to increase women’s representation relate to political and cultural context.

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  • Dahlerup, Drude, and Lenita Freidenvall. “Judging Gender Quotas: Predictions and Results.” Policy & Politics 38.3 (2010): 407–425.

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    Provides an overview of the theoretical relationship between gender quotas and three types of representation: descriptive, substantive, and symbolic. An argument is made for common criteria for evaluating the effects of quotas in order to advance research on the topic.

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  • Krook, Mona Lena. Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Contributes a framework for analyzing the successes and failures of gender quota adoption and implementation followed by three pairs of case studies covering voluntary party quotas, reserved seats, and legislated candidate quotas.

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  • Murray, Rainbow. “Quotas for Men: Reframing Gender Quotas as a Means of Improving Representation for All.” American Political Science Review 108.3 (2014): 520–532.

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    Proposes a revision of quota design, a maximum for men rather than a minimum for women candidates, as a more effective institutional reform because of the changes in gendered discourse it prompts.

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  • Piscopo, Jennifer M. “States as Gender Equality Activists: The Evolution of Quota Laws in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society 57.3 (2015): 27–49.

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    Chronicles the ways that the state acts affirmatively to improve the representation of women, including by strengthening existing gender quota policy, expanding the implementation and regulation of national quota laws, and the diffusion of quotas beyond national legislatures. Taken together, these trends in Latin American countries suggest support for the author’s theorization of the state as active promoters of women’s representation, a position that contrasts with conventional “skeptical narratives.”

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  • Schwindt-Bayer, Lesle A. “Making Quotas Work: The Effect of Gender Quota Laws on the Election of Women.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 34.1 (2009): 5–28.

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    Examines legislated gender quotas to determine how different quota designs affect the number of women elected. Three features of quotas are considered: the size of the quota (i.e., how many women candidates are required to be nominated), placement mandates, and enforcement mechanisms for noncompliance.

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Interaction of Quotas With Electoral System Variables

The effectiveness of various gender quotas designs—in terms of quota size, voluntary or legislated policy, placement mandates, and sanctions for noncompliance—is necessarily conditioned by how these elements comport or conflict with the general electoral system. Single case studies of quotas in Argentina and Chile by Jones 1998 and Jones and Navia 1999, respectively, find that closed-list PR systems with high district magnitudes constitute an accommodating electoral institutional environment for quotas to positively influence the election of women. Research by Jones 2009 and Tripp and Kang 2008 come to similar conclusions regarding the interaction of quotas and PR systems. However, as Htun and Jones 2002 notes, the effect of quotas can be substantially reduced when the electoral environment and political parties are incongruent with the design and purpose of quotas. On the other hand, competing results are presented by Christensen and Bardall 2016 who argue that quotas may not be necessarily incompatible with single-member districts, and Jankowski and Marcinkiewicz 2019 in their study of Poland find that parties motivated to increase women’s representation via quotas contribute to an increase in women’s representation even when the electoral system and quota design are suboptimal by conventional standards. Yet party elites may subvert and resist quota implementation, as summarized by Krook 2016 and discussed in the single case studies of Murray 2010 (France) and Wylie and dos Santos 2016 (Brazil).

  • Christensen, Skye, and Gabrielle Bardall. “Gender Quotas in Single-Member District Electoral Systems.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4.2 (2016): 246–267.

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    Utilizing case studies of quota adoption in countries such as Uganda, France, and India, this article argues that gender quotas are not necessarily incompatible with single-member districts.

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  • Htun, Mala N., and Mark P. Jones. “Engendering the Right to Participate in Decision-Making: Electoral Quotas and Women’s Leadership in Latin America.” In Gender and the Politics of Rights and Democracy in Latin America. Edited by Nikki Craske and Maxine Molyneux, 32–56. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

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    Reviews a decade of legislated gender quota adoption in Latin American countries beginning with Argentina’s Ley de Cupo in 1991 and concluding in 2000 when Colombia passed its national quota law. Argues that the effect on women’s descriptive representation has only been moderate due to the incompatibility of many of the countries’ electoral systems and the reluctant compliance of parties.

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  • Jankowski, Michael, and Kamil Marcinkiewicz. “Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems.” Politics & Gender 15.1 (2019): 1–33.

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    Analyzes the consequences of the introduction of a mandatory gender quota without a placement mandate in the open-list PR system of Poland. Contrary to existing expectations, the authors find that the quota had a positive effect because it increased the percentage of women in favorable ballot positions (for those parties that were in favor of the gender quota).

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  • Jones, Mark P. “Gender Quotas, Electoral Laws, and the Election of Women: Lessons From the Argentine Provinces. Comparative Political Studies 31.1 (1998): 3–21.

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    Suggests that the interaction of gender quotas and the electoral institutional context—district magnitude, type of list, campaign finance regulations—determines the efficacy of the quota in its ability to promote women’s representation.

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  • Jones, Mark P. “Gender Quotas, Electoral Laws, and the Election of Women: Evidence From the Latin American Vanguard.” Comparative Political Studies 42.1 (2009): 56–81.

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    Jones expands his previous single-country studies to a cross-national analysis involving nineteen Latin American countries. Findings support the expected advantage of closed lists over open lists in facilitating quota effectiveness and suggests that quotas reduce the importance of party magnitude for women’s representation (see Matland 1993, cited under Proportional Representation Systems).

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  • Jones, Mark P., and Patricio Navia. “Assessing the Effectiveness of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Electoral Systems.” Social Science Quarterly 80.2 (1999): 341–355.

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    Two findings contribute to the study of gender quota design and effectiveness: first, that quotas are more effective at increasing women’s representation in closed-list PR systems than in open-list PR, and, second, that there are diminishing marginal returns for the size of the quota as increasing the number of women candidates is associated with a decreasing percentage of women nominees elected to office.

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  • Krook, Mona Lena. “Contesting Gender Quotas: Dynamics of Resistance.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4.2 (2016): 268–283.

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    Catalogues a variety of elites’ motivations and strategies for resisting and subverting the intended consequence of gender quotas—that is, the increased representation of women.

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  • Murray, Rainbow. Parties, Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection in France. New York: Springer, 2010.

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    Examines how political party elites navigate the requirements of the candidate gender quota in France. Suggests a new theoretical approach to better understand elite behavior—the “party priorities model”—that utilizes theories on electoral competition, institutional analysis, and ideology to better understand how parties weight their objectives to determine their quota compliance.

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  • Tripp, Aili Mari, and Alice Kang. “The Global Impact of Quotas: On the Fast Track to Increased Female Legislative Representation.” Comparative Political Studies 41.3 (2008): 338–361.

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    Concludes that gender quotas and PR electoral systems are the two institutions with the most explanatory power in accounting for women’s representation.

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  • Wylie, Kristin, and Pedro dos Santos. “A Law on Paper Only: Electoral Rules, Parties, and the Persistent Underrepresentation of Women in Brazilian Legislatures.” Politics & Gender 12.3 (2016): 415–442.

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    Using the open-list PR system of Brazil, this article suggests that the gender quota failure in this country is due to the gendered character of Brazil’s decentralized party politics. They find that there is extensive variation in the nomination and election of women in the states of Brazil and that the presence of male dominance in state party leadership is a key explanatory variable.

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Intersectionality and Gender Quotas

Ethnic minority women face a double exclusion based on the intersection of their ethnic and gender identity. Lépinard 2013 underlines the importance of an intersectional approach to the study and design of gender quotas in a study of France’s parity movement and its homogenization of women. As Bird 2016 explains, gender quotas alone promote the representation of ethnic majority women while ethnic quotas, usually in the form of reserved seats, promote the election of ethnic minority men. However, in electoral systems with overlapping ethnic and gender quotas—what Hughes 2011 calls “tandem quotas”—parties can fulfill quota requirements by nominating minority women and minimizing the displacement of ethnic majority men. A similar effect is observed by Jensenius 2016 in the promotion of minority women’s representation through India’s reserved seat system. The analysis of women’s and ethnic minorities’ representation in Latin America by Htun 2016 also reports the positive effect of gender quotas and reserved seats but cautions that these institutions do not also create constituencies empowered to hold their representatives accountable.

  • Bird, Karen. “Intersections of Exclusion: The Institutional Dynamics of Combined Gender and Ethnic Quota Systems.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4.2 (2016): 284–306.

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    Shows that the lack of “nested” quotas for women and ethnic minorities has permitted their independent implementation. The result has been the continued underrepresentation of minority women compared to ethnic majority women who benefit from gender quotas or ethnic minority men who benefit from ethnic seat reservations.

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  • Htun, Mala. Inclusion Without Representation in Latin America: Gender Quotas and Ethnic Reservations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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    Examines several cases of quota and reserved seat adoptions in Latin American countries, arguing that these electoral institution reforms may improve the descriptive representation of women and ethnic minority groups but are not successful in creating constituencies able to hold these representatives accountable.

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  • Hughes, Melanie M. “Intersectionality, Quotas, and Minority Women’s Political Representation Worldwide. American Political Science Review 105.3 (2011): 604–620.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055411000293Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ethnic minority women’s representation is most improved by tandem quotas, where gender quotas and minority quotas intersect and pose the lowest displacement cost to ethnic majority men, according to this large-N cross-national analysis.

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  • Jensenius, Francesca R. “Competing Inequalities? On the Intersection of Gender and Ethnicity in Candidate Nominations in Indian Elections.” Government and Opposition 51.3 (2016): 440–463.

    DOI: 10.1017/gov.2016.8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India have been the site of increased minority women’s representation. As pressure on parties to nominate more women rises, the reserved seats provide the ability to increase women’s representation without displacing ethnic majority men by instead replacing the least powerful men—those of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

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  • Lépinard, Éléonore. “For Women Only? Gender Quotas and Intersectionality in France.” Politics & Gender 9.3 (2013): 276–298.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X13000251Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through the case of the parity movement in France, which campaigned for a legislated gender quota requiring a fifty–fifty split between men and women candidates, examines how gender quotas have impeded intersectional politics and minority representation by homogenizing women.

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Candidate Selection

At least as important as general elections to women’s descriptive representation is the process of candidate selection. Norris and Lovenduski 1995 led the way in the literature on the candidate selection of women with their study of British parties. More recent research, including Hinojosa 2012 and Luhiste 2015, has continued to investigate the impact of party organization of selection procedures—whether it is more centralized or decentralized—on women’s candidacies. Selectors are found by Valdini 2012 and Hinojosa and Franceschet 2012 to adapt nomination strategies in response to the electoral institutional environment, such as nominating fewer women candidates in open-list PR systems. Further, the work of Krook 2010 as well as Bjarnegård and Kenny 2016 advances a feminist institutionalist framework to better isolate the gendered processes at work in candidate selection. Gender quotas are a key tool used in an attempt to modify parties’ nomination practices, but research suggests that quotas’ ability to increase the number of women candidates depends on several additional factors. Baldez 2007 finds that more so-called democratic procedures for candidate selection, such as primaries, are detrimental to women’s selection as candidates and have been used in Mexico as a subversion of quota policy. While Caul 1999 finds evidence that higher levels of party bureaucratization in PR systems improves the chances of quota implementation, Bjarnegård and Zetterberg 2016 argues that for some parties compliance with quotas is of a minimalistic de jure form rather than in spirit. Davidson-Schmich 2016 further adds to the literature on gender quotas and candidate selection with the conclusion that quotas have different effects on party elites and potential women candidates at different points in the recruitment process. Finally, Valdini 2019 brings the patriarchy back in to our understanding of candidate selection, arguing that male party elites utilize an “inclusion calculation” determined largely by electoral variables in order to establish the balance of women on the candidate lists. The literature on the interaction of electoral institutions and the gendered norms of candidate selection, then, remains a developing area of research with important consequences for women’s representation.

  • Baldez, Lisa. “Primaries vs. Quotas: Gender and Candidate Nominations in Mexico, 2003.” Latin American Politics and Society 49.3 (2007): 69–96.

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    Examines the interaction of theoretically conflicting democratization reforms to party nomination procedures: primaries, which emphasize equality of opportunity, and national gender quotas, which emphasize equality of result. Although the percentage of women elected to the legislature in Mexico’s 2003 midterm elections increased, the quota law was partially undermined by its exemption for parties selecting candidates through primaries.

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  • Bjarnegård, Elin, and Meryl Kenny. “Comparing Candidate Selection: A Feminist Institutionalist Approach.” Government and Opposition 51.3 (2016): 370–392.

    DOI: 10.1017/gov.2016.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for approaching the study of gender and candidate selection from a feminist institutionalist perspective. Accounting for the gendered institutional context, both formal and informal, enables a better understanding of continued male dominance in politics.

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  • Bjarnegård, Elin, and Pär Zetterberg. “Political Parties and Gender Quota Implementation: The Role of Bureaucratized Candidate Selection Procedures.” Comparative Politics 48.3 (2016): 393–417.

    DOI: 10.5129/001041516818254400Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Engages variation in parties’ level of bureaucratization in candidate selection as an important factor in the consequences of legislated quota adoption on the election of women. Finds that parties with more highly bureaucratized candidate nomination procedures are better at following the letter of quota legislation but not necessarily the spirit of electing more women to political office.

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  • Caul, Miki. “Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Role of Political Parties.” Party Politics 5.1 (1999): 79–98.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354068899005001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among other party-related variables, investigates how candidate selection rules in advanced democracies affect women’s representation, finding these procedures to have one of the most direct impacts on women’s presence in legislatures. In particular, Caul finds that list PR systems, while directly affecting final electoral results, also tend to positively influence parties’ adoption of candidate gender quotas and nomination of women candidates.

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  • Davidson-Schmich, Louise. Gender Quotas and Democratic Participation: Recruiting Candidates for Elective Offices in Germany. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.8137405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the effect of gender quotas at the recruitment stage of the electoral process using potential candidate surveys and interviews in Germany. Finds that quotas have the biggest impact in the later stages of the recruitment process when party gatekeepers select officers and candidates for office. But Davidson-Schmich also notes that quotas are not attracting more women to politics due to continuing cultural norms and the male-dominated party organizations.

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  • Hinojosa, Magda. Selecting Women, Electing Women: Political Representation and Candidate Selection in Latin America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012.

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    Analyzes candidate selection processes and their effect on women’s representation through a two-dimensional framework of inclusive-exclusive and centralized-decentralized selection. Drawing extensively on examples from Mexico and Chile, Hinojosa argues that inclusive (primaries) and decentralized procedures that empower local party leaders tend to result in fewer women nominees than more exclusive, centralized procedures.

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  • Hinojosa, Magda, and Susan Franceschet. “Separate But Not Equal: The Effects of Municipal Electoral Reform on Female Representation in Chile.” Political Research Quarterly 65.4 (2012): 758–770.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912911427449Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using Chile’s municipal elections between 1992 and 2008, this article examines the interaction of electoral rules with informal norms for women’s descriptive representation. The electoral rules, they argue, generate informal norms in candidate selection that tend to disadvantage women; for example, the informal norm for selectors to rally around a single candidate so as to not dilute the vote causes them to construct shorter candidate lists, thereby decreasing the likelihood that women are included.

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  • Krook, Mona Lena. “Beyond Supply and Demand: A Feminist-Institutionalist Theory of Candidate Selection.” Political Research Quarterly 63.4 (2010): 707–720.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912909336275Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops a feminist institutionalist approach to analyzing candidate selection in order to account for the effects of gendered institutions.

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  • Luhiste, Maarja. “Party Gatekeepers’ Support for Viable Female Candidacy in PR-List Systems.” Politics & Gender 11.1 (2015): 89–116.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X14000580Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how variation in parties’ placement of women candidates on PR lists is influenced by type of PR system (open or closed lists) and candidate selection procedures. Finds that centralized candidate selection and closed-list PR are optimal conditions for women’s placement in viable list positions.

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  • Norris, Pippa, and Joni Lovenduski. Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    Traces the development and consequences of candidate recruitment and selection in British political parties over time utilizing personal interviews, surveys of candidates, MPs, and party selectors, and observation of constituency meetings. Historically locates the selection of women, Black, and working-class candidates in the dynamics of parties’ reformations of their recruitment processes while placing this analysis in the context of social biases and electoral institutions.

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  • Valdini, Melody Ellis. “A Deterrent to Diversity: The Conditional Effect of Electoral Rules on the Nomination of Women Candidates.” Electoral Studies 31.4 (2012): 740–749.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2012.06.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the conventional distinction between PR and SMD systems in studies of women’s representation by further categorizing PR systems into closed-list and open-list types. Finds that PR systems that allow voters to exercise a preference vote have a significant negative effect on women’s nomination as candidates if traditional gender norms are prevalent in the cultural context.

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  • Valdini, Melody Ellis. The Inclusion Calculation: Why Men Appropriate Women’s Representation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190936198.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that women’s selection as legislative candidates is driven by a rational and strategic calculation of male party elites that weighs both the potential electoral benefits of associating the party with more women as well as the potential costs of dividing power. Among other variables, the electoral system and candidate selection methodology play prominent roles in determining the “costs and benefits” of women’s increased inclusion on the candidate lists.

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