The Symbolic Effects of Female Heads of States and Government

28 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by Farida Jalalzai

Farida Jalalzai

University of Missouri at Saint Louis - Political Sciences

Amy C. Alexander

Center for the Study of Democracy; University of California, Irvine

Date Written: August 21, 2014

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Jalalzai, Farida and Alexander, Amy C., The Symbolic Effects of Female Heads of States and Government (August 21, 2014). The Symbolic Effects of Female Heads of States and Government . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2484806

Farida Jalalzai (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Saint Louis - Political Sciences ( email )

United States

Amy C. Alexander

Center for the Study of Democracy ( email )

Scharnhorststrasse 1
Lüneburg, 21314
Germany

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

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