Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-ls6xp Total loading time: 0.265 Render date: 2022-11-28T16:47:44.035Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Bringing Party Ideology Back In: Do Left-Wing Parties Enhance the Share of Women MPs?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2018

Andrés Santana
Autonomous University of Madrid
Susana Aguilar
Complutense University of Madrid


This article analyzes the relationship between parties and the representation of women in Spanish subnational legislatures. We argue that studies on party ideology and gender have generally failed to (a) acknowledge the effect of electoral time: the left started to recruit women earlier, when their number was low and they were mainly perceived as liabilities; and (b) distinguish between two different party mechanisms: parties can be gate openers and ease the access of newcomers to the legislature, and they can be career promoters, which facilitate the parliamentary continuity of incumbents. Drawing on a database containing comprehensive information about the population of regional members of parliament (MPs) (N = 5,353) in 138 elections and focusing on the two most prominent parties, the conservative People's Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), we test the hypothesis that left-wing parties outperform right-wing parties concerning gender representation. Our statistical analyses show that electoral time blurs the effect of ideology on the share of women MPs. Once time is controlled for, the socialists emerge as systematically recruiting more women. Concerning the two mechanisms, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party fares better as a gate opener, while the People's Party, unexpectedly, excels as a career promoter.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We are grateful to Professor Xavier Coller for having masterminded the Bapolau database. We also want to express our gratitude to Professor Nigel Townson for revising the English.



Arceneaux, Kevin. 2001. “The ‘Gender Gap’ in State Legislative Representation: New Data to Tackle an Old Question.” Political Research Quarterly. 54 (1): 143–60.Google Scholar
Best, Heinrich, and Cotta, Maurizio, eds. 2000. Parliamentary Representatives in Europe 1848–2000: Legislative Recruitments and Careers in Eleven European Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Bjarnegard, Elin, and Kenny, Meryl. 2015. “Revealing the ‘Secret Garden’: The Informal Dimensions of Political Recruitment.” Politics & Gender 11 (4): 748–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bystydzienski, Jill M. 1995. Women in Electoral Politics. Lessons from Norway. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
Caul, Miki. 1999. “Women's Representation in Parliament: The Role of Political Parties.” Party Politics 5 (1): 7998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caul, Miki. 2001. “Political Parties and Candidate Gender Policies: A Cross-National Study.” Journal of Politics. 63 (4): 1214–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caul, Miki. 2006. Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments: Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
Cheng, Christine, and Tavits, Margit. 2011. “Informal Influences in Selecting Female Political Candidates.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (2): 460–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cowley, Philip, and Childs, Sarah. 2003. “Too Spineless to Rebel? New Labour's Women MPs.” British Journal of Political Science 33 (3): 345–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Darcy, Robert, and Choike, James R.. 1986. “A Formal Analysis of Legislative Turnover: Women Candidates and Legislative Representation.” American Journal of Political Science 30 (1): 237–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davidson-Schmich, Louise K. 2006Implementation of Political Party Gender Quotas: Evidence from the German Länder 1990–2000.” Party Politics 12 (2): 211–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duverger, Maurice. 1955. The Political Role of Women. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
Erickson, Lynda. 1993. “Making Her Way In: Women, Candidates and Parties in Canada.” In Gender and Party Politics, eds. Lovenduski, Joni and Norris, Pippa. London: Sage, 6085.Google Scholar
Escobar-Lemmon, Maria, and Taylor-Robinson, Michelle M.. 2005. “Women Ministers in Latin American Government: When, Where, and Why?American Journal of Political Science 49 (4): 829–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Field, Bonnie N., and Siavelis, Peter M.. 2008. “Candidate Selection Procedures in Transitional Polities.” Party Politics 14 (5): 620–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gaddie, Ronald K., and Bullock, Charles. 1997. “Structural and Elite Features in Open Seat and Special US House Elections: Is There a Sexual Bias?Political Research Quarterly 50 (2): 459–68.Google Scholar
Goetz, Anne Marie. 2002. “No Shortcuts to Power: Constraints on Women's Political Effectiveness in Uganda.” Journal of Modern African Studies 40 (4): 549–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guinan, Joe. 2013. “Returns to Capital: Austerity and the Crisis of European Social Democracy.” The Good Society 22 (1): 4460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heath, Roseanna M., Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and Taylor-Robinson, Michelle M.. 2005. “Women on the Sidelines: Women's Representation on Committees in Latin American Legislatures.” Journal of Political Science 49 (2): 420–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Inglehart, Ronald, and Norris, Pippa. 2003. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1977. “Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women.” American Journal of Sociology 82 (5): 865990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitschelt, Herbert. 1993. “Class Structure and Social Democratic Party Strategy.” British Journal of Political Science 23 (3): 299337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krook, Mona Lena. 2010. Quotas for Women in Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Kunovich, Sheri. 2003. “The Representation of Polish and Czech Women in National Politics: Predicting Electoral List Position.” Comparative Politics 35 (3): 273–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kunovich, Sheri, and Paxton, Pamela. 2005. “Pathways to Power: The Role of Political Parties in Women's National Political Representation.” American Journal of Sociology 111 (2): 505–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lambert, Priscilla A., and Scribner, Druscilla L.. 2009. “A Politics of Difference versus a Politics of Equality: Do Constitutions Matter?Comparative Politics 41 (3): 337–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lawless, Jennifer L., and Pearson, Kathryn. 2008. “The Primary Reason for Women's Underrepresentation? Re-evaluating the Conventional Wisdom.” The Journal of Politics 70 (1): 6782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lovenduski, Joni, and Norris, Pippa. 1993. Gender and Party Politics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Martínez, Álvaro, and Calvo, Kerman. 2010. “Un Análisis del Efecto de la Ley de Igualdad en la Representación Electoral, Parlamentaria y en el Comportamiento Electoral de las Mujeres en las Elecciones Generales de 2008” [An analysis of the effect of the gender equality law on parliamentary representation and on women's electoral behavior in the 2008 Spanish general elections]. Estudios de Progreso 48, Fundación Alternativas. (accessed August 31, 2018).Google Scholar
Mateo, Mercedes. 2005. Representing Women? Female Legislators in West European Parliaments. Colchester: ECPR Press.Google Scholar
Matland, Richard E. 1998. “Women's Representation in National Legislatures: Developed and Developing Countries.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (1): 109–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matland, Richard E., and Studlar, Donley T.. 1996. “The Contagion of Women Candidates in Single-Member Districts and Proportional Representation Electoral Systems: Canada and Norway.” Journal of Politics 58 (3): 707–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murray, Rainbow. 2008. “The Power of Sex and Incumbency—A Longitudinal Study of Electoral Performance in France.” Party Politics 14 (5): 539–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murray, Rainbow. 2013. “Towards Parity Democracy? Gender in the 2012 French Legislative Elections.” Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 197212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nechemias, Carol. 1987. “Changes in the Election of Women to U.S. Legislative Seats.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 12 (1): 125–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norris, Pippa. 1997. “Conclusions, Comparing Legislative Recruitment.” In Gender and Party Politics, eds. Lovenduski, Joni and Norris, Pippa, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 309–30.Google Scholar
Norris, Pippa, and Lovenduski, Joni. 1993. “‘If Only More Candidates Came Forward’: Supply-Side Explanations of Candidate Selection in Britain.” British Journal of Political Science 23 (3): 373408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norris, Pippa, and Lovenduski, Joni. 2010. “Puzzles in Political Recruitment.” In Women, Gender and Politics, eds. Krook, Mona Lena and Childs, Sarah. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 135–40.Google Scholar
O'Neill, Brenda, and Stewart, David K.. 2009. “Gender and Political Party Leadership in Canada.” Party Politics 15 (6): 737–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ortega, Carmen, and Trujillo, José Manuel. 2011. “Cuotas Legales de Género y Sistemas Electorales. Las Elecciones a Cortes Generales de 2008” [Gender electoral quotas and electoral systems: The 2008 Spanish general elections]. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Spanish Association of Political Science and Administration, Murcia, Spain. (accessed August 31, 2018).Google Scholar
Oxley, Zoe M., and Fox, Richard L.. 2004. “Women in Executive Office: Variation across American States.” Political Research Quarterly 57 (1): 113–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patzelt, Werner J. 1999. “Recruitment and Retention in Western European Parliaments.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 5 (1): 239–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paxton, Pamela. 1997. “Women in National Legislatures: A Cross-National Analysis.” Social Science Research 26 (4): 442–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paxton, Pamela, and Kunovich, Sheri. 2003. “Women's Political Representation: The Importance of Ideology.” Social Forces 82 (1): 87114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paxton, Pamela, Kunovich, Sheri, and Hughes, Melanie M.. 2007. “Gender in Politics.” Annual Review of Sociology 33: 263–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Praud, Jocelyne. 1998. “Affirmative Action and Women's Representation in the Ontario New Democratic Party,” In Women and Political Representation in Canada, eds. Tremblay, Manon and Andrew, Caroline. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 171–94.Google Scholar
Rahat, Gideon, and Hazan, Reuven Y.. 2001. “Candidate Selection Methods: An Analytical Framework.” Party Politics 7 (3): 297322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reynolds, Andrew. 1999. “Women in the Legislatures and Executives of the World: Knocking at the Highest Glass Ceiling.” World Politics 51 (4): 547–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ruedin, Didier. 2012. “The Representation of Women in National Parliaments: A Cross-National Comparison.” European Sociological Review 28 (1): 96109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rule, Wilma. 1981. “Why Women Don't Run: The Critical Factors in Women's Legislative Recruitment.” Western Political Quarterly 34 (1): 6077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rule, Wilma. 1987. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women's Opportunity to Election to Parliament in 23 Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 40 (3): 477–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rule, Wilma. 1990. “Why More Women Are State Legislators. A Research Note.” Western Political Quarterly 43 (2): 437–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sainsbury, Diane. 2010. “Women's Political Representation in Sweden: Discursive Politics and Institutional Presence,” In Women, Gender and Politics, eds. Krook, Mona Lena and Childs, Sarah. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 97105.Google Scholar
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2002. “Political Parties and the Recruitment of Women to State Legislatures.” Journal of Politics 64 (3): 791809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanbonmatsu, Kira, and Dolan, Kathleen. 2009. “Do Gender Stereotypes Transcend Party?Political Research Quarterly 62 (3): 485–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Santana, Andrés, Aguilar, Susana, and Coller, Xavier. 2016. “Who Leads and Who Lags Behind? Women MPs in the Spanish Regional Parliaments.” Revista Internacional de Sociología 74 (2): 114.Google Scholar
Santana, Andrés, Coller, Xavier, and Aguilar, Susana. 2015. “Las Parlamentarias Regionales en España: Masa Crítica, Experiencia Parlamentaria e Influencia Política/Women MPs in Spanish Regional Parliaments: Critical Mass, Parliamentary Experience and Political Influence.” Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas 149 (1): 111–30.Google Scholar
Scharpe, Laurence Jim. 1993. The Rise of Meso Governments in Europe. Berkeley Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Studlar, Donley T., and Matland, Richard E.. 1994. “The Growth of Women's Representation in the Canadian House of Commons and the Election of 1984.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 27 (1): 5379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vengroff, Richard, Nyri, Zsolt, and Fugiero, Melissa. 2003. “Electoral System and Gender Representation in Sub-National Legislatures.” Political Research Quarterly 56 (2): 163–73.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Santana and Aguilar supplementary material

Tables A1-A5 and Figures A1-A6

Download Santana and Aguilar supplementary material(File)
File 47 KB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Bringing Party Ideology Back In: Do Left-Wing Parties Enhance the Share of Women MPs?
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Bringing Party Ideology Back In: Do Left-Wing Parties Enhance the Share of Women MPs?
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Bringing Party Ideology Back In: Do Left-Wing Parties Enhance the Share of Women MPs?
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *