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Do Government Positions Held by Women Matter? A Cross-National Examination of Female Ministers' Impacts on Women's Political Participation

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-162
JournalPolitics & Gender
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


Current research shows that female legislators serve as role models for women. Understudied is how and the extent to which female ministers inspire women to participate in politics. We argue that with their high visibility and greater ability to influence policy, female ministers also serve as role models, but their influence differs depending on the form of political engagement. Using the World Values Survey and additional national-level variables, we employ multilevel modeling techniques to explore how women in the cabinet influence various forms of women’s political engagement. We find that the proportion of women in the cabinet has a stronger effect on participation than the proportion of women in parliament. All else being equal, a higher proportion of women in the cabinet increases women’s conventional participation (voting and party membership), petition signing, and engagement in peaceful demonstrations, but it does not influence women’s participation in strikes or boycotts. Our findings add to current studies of women’s political representation, in which ministerial representation is often underexplored or not differentiated from parliamentary representation, and help distinguish various forms of participation. Future research should consider examining a wider variety of women’s political roles in other areas of the political arena.

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