Working Paper No. 923

Female Representation but Male Rule? Party Competition and the Political Glass Ceiling

Published: September 5, 2012Pages: 31Keywords: Careers in politics; Political competition; Supply of politiciansJEL-codes: J45; J16; J21; H10

Female Representation but Male Rule? Party Competition and the Political Glass Ceiling Olle Folke and Johanna Rickne


A large literature has studied the context that affects women’s numerical representation, but few have moved beyond numbers to study the drivers of a gender gap in political influence among elected politicians. Using panel data for the careers of 35.000 Swedish municipal politicians over six election cycles we first document the said gender gap. Women are substantially less likely to be re-elected for office, which is the most important pre-condition for obtaining influential appointments. Turing to the determinants we find that supply factors, primarily family responsibilities, explain some of this gap. Meanwhile, demand factors such as experience, age, education and income do not. Finding that competition between political parties closes the gap, we argue that a negative bias against women among party selectors thrives in contexts where meritocracy is not enforced. Positive correlations between competition and measures of competence for elected politicians of both genders further support this conclusion.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State

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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.

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