Incentives for personal votes and women's representation in legislatures

Frank C. Thames, Margaret S. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


To explain the gender gap in legislatures, scholars have identified several socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that undermine women's representation. One explanation focuses on electoral institutions. Proportional representation systems with higher district magnitudes have been shown to increase the percentage of women in legislatures.The authors contend that solely concentrating on district magnitude ignores other critical electoral rules that will affect women's representation. To better understand electoral system effects, scholars must understand how electoral rules beside district magnitude create incentives for candidates to obtain personal votes.The authors argue that those systems with weak incentives for personal votes (party-centered systems) increase women's representation in comparison with systems that feature strong incentives for personal votes (candidate-centered systems). Using a data set of 57 countries between 1980 and 2005, the authors show that party-centered systems are more conducive to women's representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1575-1600
Number of pages26
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • electoral systems
  • gender
  • legislatures
  • women's representation


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