The Glass Ceiling in Politics: Formalization and Empirical Tests

Reprint No. 2016:52

Author(s): Olle Folke and Johanna RickneYear: 2016 Title: Comparative Political Studies Volume (No.): 49 (5) Pages: 567–599
Online article (restrictions may apply)
Preliminary version

There is a scarcity of women at the apex of political power, as well as a lack of methods to disentangle the potential sources of this under-representation. This article suggests a four-step method to test for whether women’s under-representation can be explained by the existence of a “glass ceiling.” We emphasize that this concept implies discrimination in promotions within the political organization, that the discriminatory promotions increase in severity at the top levels of power, and that they increase in severity during an individual’s career trajectory. The proposed method is applied to subnational politics in Sweden, a long-standing world leader in women’s descriptive representation. The results support the conjecture that a glass ceiling is hindering elected women’s rise to political power in this context.

Folke, Olle and Johanna Rickne (2016), "The Glass Ceiling in Politics: Formalization and Empirical Tests". Comparative Political Studies 49(5), 567–599.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State


This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

About the book


Seminars organized by IFN


To present ongoing research informal brown-bag seminars are held on Mondays at 11:30 am. This is an opportunity for IFN researchers to test ideas and results.

Academically oriented seminars are most of the time held on Wednesdays at 10 am. At these events researchers from IFN and other institutions present their research.

In addition, IFN organizes seminars open to the public. Topics for these are derived from the IFN research.

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se