Skip to main content

Making Institutions and Context Count: How Useful Is Feminist Institutionalism in Explaining Male Dominance in Politics?

  • Melinda Adams (a1) and Michal Smrek (a2)

While the same formal candidate selection rules are generally in place throughout a state, there is often intracountry variation in male descriptive overrepresentation. To explain this variation, scholars cannot focus exclusively on women (e.g., how do women respond to formal institutional opportunities?) or femininity (e.g., how do norms governing appropriate female behavior affect women's odds of being selected as a candidate?). Rather, scholars must attend to the ways that informal norms regarding masculinity operate across space and time within a country. Drawing on the insights of feminist institutionalism, this essay examines two intracountry sources of variation in candidate selection: the spatial urban-rural divide and temporal differences between first-time recruitment and renomination. While the formal candidate selection rules are uniform, informal institutions vary depending on where and when we look, leading to different levels of male overrepresentation.

Hide All
André, Audrey, Depauw, Sam, Shugart, Matthew S., and Chytilek, Roman. 2017. “Party Nomination Strategies in Flexible-List Systems: Do Preference Votes Matter?Party Politics 23 (5): 589600.
Bjarnegård, Elin. 2013. Gender, Informal Institutions and Political Recruitment: Explaining Male Dominance in Parliamentary Representation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bjarnegård, Elin, and Kenny, Meryl. 2015. “Revealing the ‘Secret Garden’: The Informal Dimensions of Political Recruitment.” Politics & Gender 11 (4): 748–53.
Crisp, Brian F., Olivella, Santiago, Malecki, Michael, and Sher, Mindy. 2013. “Vote-Earning Strategies in Flexible List Systems: Seats at the Price of Unity.” Electoral Studies 32 (4): 658–69.
Lindberg, Staffan I. 2010. “What Accountability Pressures Do MPs in Africa Face and How Do They Respond? Evidence from Ghana.” Journal of Modern African Studies 48 (1): 117–42.
Mackay, Fiona. 2014. “Nested Newness, Institutional Innovation, and the Gendered Limits of Change.” Politics & Gender 10 (4): 549–71.
Norris, Pippa, and Lovenduski, Joni. 1995. Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Paller, Jeffrey W. 2014. “Informal Institutions and Personal Rule in Urban Ghana.” African Studies Review 57 (3): 123–42.
Shair-Rosenfield, Sarah, and Hinojosa, Magda. 2014. “Does Female Incumbency Reduce Gender Bias in Elections? Evidence from Chile.” Political Research Quarterly 67 (4): 837–50.
Siavelis, Peter M., and Morgenstern, Scott. 2008. Pathways to Power: Political Recruitment and Candidate Selection in Latin America. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed