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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Women's Representation in Parliament: The Role of Political Parties


Parties vary substantially in the proportion of women they send to Parliament. We examine how party characteristics affect women's representation in the parliamentary parties of twelve advanced industrial nations at three time points-- 1975, 1985, and 1989. Four party-level factors have some explanatory power: 1) organizational structure, 2) ideology, 3) women party activists, and 4) gender related candidate rules. Leftist and New Left ideologies, high levels of women activists within the party and gender related candidate rules all enable parties to increase the descriptive representation of women. We propose a temporal sequence in which the four factors and electoral rules work both directly and indirectly to affect women's representation. Women party activists and gender related rules are the more direct mechanisms which affect women's legislative representation. Further, New Left values and high levels of women activists within the party both enhance the likelihood that gender-related candidate rules will be implemented.

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