Publication Date



The authors extend previous research on women’s participation in politics by examining the role of female elites in political parties in selecting and supporting women as political candidates. They hypothesize that political parties, in their role as gatekeepers, mediate the relationship between country-level factors, such as women’s participation in the labor force, and political outcomes for women. The article focuses on three outcomes for women: the percentage of female political party leaders, the percentage of female candidates in a country, and the percentage of women elected. New cross-national measures of women’s inclusion in political parties are developed and analyzed in a cross-national, path-analytic model of women in politics to find that (1) women’s position in party elites translates into gains for women as candidates only under proportional representation systems, (2) women’s position in party elites increases the likelihood that female candidates will be elected only in non-proportional representation systems, and (3) parties may be overly sensitive to the perceived liability of women as candidates, when in fact, women have success as candidates across all regions of the world.

Document Type



women in politics, electoral systems, women as candidates, proportional representation, descriptive representation, political parties, gatekeepers


Comparative Politics | Gender and Sexuality | Political Science | Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Sociology of Culture

Part of

Kunovich, Sheri, and Pamela Paxton. 2005. "Pathways to Power: The Role of Political Parties in Women's National Political Representation." American Journal Of Sociology 111, no. 2: 505-552.


50 pages




2005 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.


American Journal of Sociology




As authors, we contributed equally to this article. We thank Paul von Hippel, Robert Kunovich, Melanie Hughes, Jennifer Green, Lindsey Peterson, Katherine Meyer, Kira Sanbonmatsu, and the AJS reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.