Low levels of female labor force participation contribute to female underrepresentation in democratic polities, both by reinforcing traditional voter attitudes toward women (a demand-side feature) and by constraining the supply of women with professional experience and resources who are capable of mounting credible electoral campaigns. Female labor force participation, however, is only part of the story. Comparative analysis suggests that electoral systems have a strong, systematic effect on the extent to which women's workforce participation boosts female political representation. In candidate-centered political systems, where seniority is an important factor in legislative effectiveness, career interruptions for the sake of childcare and other family work hurts female aspiring politicians more seriously than in proportional representation (PR) systems, where political parties control the policy platform and constituency service is a minor consideration in the careers of candidates. In countries with mixed electoral systems, women do better in seats elected by PR than by single-member plurality. Within countries, women are more likely to get elected to offices characterized by shorter tenure and higher average levels of turnover.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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