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Ethnic Politics and Women's Empowerment in Africa: Ministerial Appointments to Executive Cabinets


Under what conditions do women participate in executive power in multiethnic societies? Previous research has examined how political institutions, socioeconomic factors, and cultural norms affect the appointment of women as cabinet ministers. However, no study has assessed the extent to which the politicization of ethnicity-a cleavage that shapes political life in many countries-affects women's cabinet appointments. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, we argue that women are less likely to become cabinet ministers where incumbents use such appointments to build patronage-based alliances with politicians who act as advocates for ethnic constituencies. Using an original dataset on the composition of cabinets in 34 African countries from 1980 to 2005, we show that women's share of cabinet appointments is significantly lower in countries where leaders must accommodate a larger number of politicized ethnic groups, but it rises with higher levels of democracy and greater representation of women in parliament. © 2013, Midwest Political Science Association.

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