Doctoral Dissertation Research: Making Democracy Work for Women: Gender Gaps in Political Participation and Representation


Macartan Humphreys
Professor of Political Science
Sarah Khan
Assistant Professor, Yale University


Despite legal guarantees of equality, stark gaps in political participation and representation persist between men and women in democracies around the world. Evidence from advanced industrialized democracies shows that when women participate in higher numbers as voters (e.g. after the extension of suffrage rights), it produces policy shifts in line with their political preferences. However, it is unclear whether similar outcomes result in developing contexts where women?s voting rights are guaranteed in the constitution as a result of elite, rather than popular consensus. In this project, the PI draws on evidence from a developing democracy with persistent gender inequality, to show that voting rights are at best unevenly exercised by women. Certain additional conditions must be present for increased participation to produce improved representation: notably the independence of women's vote and the credible potential for collective action by women. By identifying the conditions under which women's preferences are equally represented in policymaking, the project findings can inform policy aimed to achieve women's political equality and improve the representation of marginalized voices in politics.