Publication Date

Fall 8-2007


Women’s political participation and representation vary dramatically within and between countries. We selectively review the literature on gender in politics, focusing on women’s formal political participation.

We discuss both traditional explanations for women’s political participation and representation, such as the supply of women and the demand for women, and newer explanations such as the role of international actors and gender quotas. We also ask whether women are distinctive—does having more women in office make a difference to public policy? Throughout the review we demonstrate that a full understanding of women’s political representation requires both deep knowledge of individual cases such as the United States and broad knowledge comparing women’s participation across countries. We end with four recommended directions for future research: (a) globalizing theory and research, (b) expanding data collection, (c) remembering alternative forms of women’s agency, and (d ) addressing intersectionality.

Document Type



women, political participation, representation, gender in politics, gender inequality, descriptive representation, women in politics, electoral system, political parties


American Politics | Comparative Politics | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Political Science | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology of Culture | Theory, Knowledge and Science

Part of

Paxton P, Kunovich S, Hughes MM. 2007. Gender in politics. Annual Review of Sociology. 33:263-84.


The Annual Review of Sociology is online at
This article’s doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131651






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The Annual Review of Sociology