The Symbolic Effects of Female Heads of States and Government
28 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 21, 2014
The comparative literature on the symbolic effects of women’s representation is limited in its focus on the global variation and change in women’s presence in parliaments. Arguably, the presence of a female head of state is as potentially transformative of women’s views of their roles in politics. In fact, if one considers the visibility and status of national executive office, the symbolic effects of a female executive could even trump that of an increase in female parliamentarians. Yet, while a growing, albeit recent, literature tackles the question of the symbolic effects of female parliamentarians comparatively and overtime, not a single study applies the theory of symbolic representation to the presence of a female head of state. This paper examines whether a recent or current female head of state improves women’s support of female leaders and political engagement. Working with the most recent public opinion data we look cross-sectionally at fifty countries from around the globe to evaluate the influence of the presence of a female executive on countries’ average acceptance of female leaders, interest in politics, and level of voting in national and local elections.
Keywords: women, presidents, prime ministers, symbolic, effects
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