Silver or Lead? Why Violence and Corruption Limit Women’s Representation

28 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2019

See all articles by Pippa Norris

Pippa Norris

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); University of Sydney

Date Written: March 1, 2019


Monitors report that many elections around the world are flawed by problems of corruption and violence – sometimes both. These malpractices are deeply troubling for electoral integrity and liberal democracy. Do they also serve as critical barriers to women’s representation in elected office and thus the achievement of gender equality in parliaments around the world? Part I in this paper sets out the theoretical arguments and reviews what is known from qualitative studies. Part II then considers sources of quantitative evidence, selecting systematic cross-national and time-series indices from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project. Part III analyzes the impact of corruption and violence on the proportion of women in elected office worldwide, controlling for factors such as levels of democracy and development, electoral laws and gender quotas. Part IV confirms that both legislative corruption and political killings serve as significant constraints on women’s election, with important implications for achieving the twin goals of electoral integrity and gender equality in parliamentary representation.

Keywords: women’s representation, gender equality, political violence, political corruption

Suggested Citation

Norris, Pippa, Silver or Lead? Why Violence and Corruption Limit Women’s Representation (March 1, 2019). HKS Working Paper No. RWP19-011. Available at SSRN: or

Pippa Norris (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1475 (Phone)
617-496-2850 (Fax)

University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006

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