Gender Gaps in Political Seniority Systems
42 Pages Posted: 23 May 2023
Date Written: May 18, 2023
Closed-list proportional representation (PR) generates higher average levels of descriptive representation for women. But because parties control candidate promotion, often based on seniority rules, gender bias in the seniority system can potentially curtail women’s career advancement. We theorize how seniority systems might operate in a gender-neutral way at three stages of a typical national-level political career: (1) nomination, (2) renomination and rank advancement, and (3) promotion to cabinet. Using detailed candidate-level data from Norway covering more than a century of elections, we find that career advancement in the seniority system is generally gender-neutral. However, we also identify two “majoritarian bottlenecks”—local mayoralties and top list positions—where women’s seniority-based career advancement may face challenges, and describe how parties appear to have employed workarounds to prevent these bottlenecks from adversely affecting women’s representation at higher levels of the political hierarchy.
Keywords: political selection, gender, closed-list proportional representation, seniority system, Norway
JEL Classification: D02, D71, D72, J16, N44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation