Contagious Representation

Contagious Representation: Womens Political Representation in Democracies around the World

Frank C. Thames
Margaret S. Williams
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Contagious Representation
    Book Description:

    Women's participation in parliaments, high courts, and executive offices worldwide has reached record high numbers, but this global increase in women's representation masks significant variation among different democratic political systems. For example, in December of 2009, Rwanda's legislature contained 56% women, while the U.S. Congress contained only about 17% and the Japanese Diet had only 11%. Since 2000, only twenty-seven women have achieved executive office worldwide. Contagious Representation is a comprehensive look at women's participation in all aspects of public life in the main democratic political institutions - the executive, the judiciary, the legislature, and within political parties. Moving beyond studies of single countries and institutions, Contagious Representation presents original data from 159 democratic countries spanning 50 years, providing a comprehensive understanding of women in democracies worldwide. The first volume to offer an analysis on all avenues for women's participation for such a lengthy time period, Contagious Representation examines not only the causes of women's representation in the main democratic political institutions but also how women's representation in one institution affects the others. Each chapter contains case studies and examples of the change in women's participation over time from around the world. Thames and Williams definitively explain the rise, decline, or stagnant levels of women's political participation, considering how representation is contagious across political institutions and gaining a better understanding of what factors affect women's political participation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8418-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Women’s Political Participation and the Influence of Contagion
    (pp. 1-13)

    We are currently experiencing the greatest level of women’s political representation the world has ever seen. Women constituted 18 percent of members of parliaments in 2009 (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2009). Since 2000, twenty-seven women have achieved executive office worldwide (see Jalalzai 2008). Twenty-three percent of the seats on national high courts are now held by women (Williams and Thames 2008). In addition, political parties, mostly due to quota laws, are seeing greater participation by women than at any time in the past (Caul 1999, 2001; Thames and Williams 2010).

    The global increase in women’s representation in multiple areas is readily apparent...

  5. 2 Understanding Women’s Legislative Representation
    (pp. 14-38)

    In 1917, three years before the adoption of the 19th Amendment that prohibited voting restrictions based on gender, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first female member of the U.S House of Representatives. Two years later, in 1919, Viscountess Nancy Witchter Astor won a by-election to replace her husband as the Member of Parliament from Plymouth Sutton, becoming the first woman elected to the British House of Commons.¹ Two years later, in 1921, five women—Nelly Thüring, Agda Östlund, Elisabeth Tamm, Kerstin Hesselgren, and Bertha Wellin—were the first women elected to the Swedish parliament. Thus, in the span of...

  6. 3 Women and the Executive
    (pp. 39-59)

    Women’s participation in executive office is perhaps one of the most misleading areas to study in women’s political life. High-profile cases of female prime ministers and presidents seem to date back fairly far, with the first female prime minister serving as long ago as 1960. Moreover, the women serving in these high-profile positions are well-known politicians, including Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, and Angela Merkel. While these high-profile and, in some cases, long-standing examples immediately come to mind when we think about women’s participation in executive office, the idiosyncratic nature of the examples masks the real story of women’s...

  7. 4 Gender and Cross-National Courts
    (pp. 60-75)

    With the confirmation of Elena Kagan as Associate Justice, in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time in history included three women. Given that only four women have ever served on the Court in its long history, the dramatic increase from 11 percent female to 33 percent female under the Obama administration is noteworthy. President George W. Bush had several opportunities to appoint women and indeed also had the support of his wife and retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to do so, yet he failed to appoint any women to the high court. Perhaps the election of President...

  8. 5 Contagion and the Adoption of Voluntary Party Quotas
    (pp. 76-99)

    At a November 2008 meeting of the National Women’s Council in Dublin, Ireland, Margot Wallström, vice president of the European Commission, expressed her support for gender quotas, stating that “Quotas are not an offence to women as we have enough qualified people among us; they re-balance an imbalance that comes with men choosing men” (Newenham 2008, p. 5). Wallström’s comment highlights one major obstacle to increasing women’s representation—the tendency of parties to nominate men at the expense of women. As discussed in previous chapters, this tendency is often reinforced by other systemic or institutional factors, such as the electoral...

  9. 6 Contagion and the Adoption of National Quotas
    (pp. 100-126)

    In 2000, the warring factions in Burundi’s civil war signed a peace agreement in Arusha, Tanzania. The Arusha Accord ended a nearly decade-long civil war in which thousands of people died and many more thousands were displaced. Peace led to the writing of a new constitution, which was approved by referendum in February 2005. Article 164 of the new constitution erected a 30 percent reserved-seat quota for women in parliament (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and Stockholm University 2006). The quota law substantially increased women’s representation in Burundi, increasing the representation of women in the legislature from 18.4...

  10. 7 Conclusion: Why Contagion Matters
    (pp. 127-132)

    This book set out to examine the influences of contagion on women’s political representation. As we have defined it here, contagion is the influence of women’s participation and political gains in one institution on others. To examine these influences, we studied legislatures, executive offices, high courts, and the adoption of voluntary and compulsory quotas in democracies across the globe from 1945 to 2006. We find strong evidence that one institution can influence others. Our results suggest that future work should consider such influences as we further explore women’s political participation.

    While there is strong evidence of contagion overall, the results...

  11. Appendix 1: Cases in Legislative Analysis
    (pp. 133-134)
  12. Appendix 2: Cases in Executive Analysis
    (pp. 135-137)
  13. Appendix 3: Female Executives by Country
    (pp. 138-138)
  14. Appendix 4: Cases in Courts Analysis
    (pp. 139-140)
  15. Appendix 5: Parties with Quotas
    (pp. 141-144)
  16. Appendix 6: Cases in Voluntary Party Quota Analysis
    (pp. 145-146)
  17. Appendix 7: National Quotas
    (pp. 147-147)
  18. Appendix8: Cases in National Quota Analysis
    (pp. 148-150)
  19. NOTES
    (pp. 151-154)
    (pp. 155-170)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 171-173)
    (pp. 174-174)