From Thin to Thick Representation: How a Female President Shapes Female Parliamentary Behavior

October 24, 2021 - Dr. Michael Wahman, Nikolaos Frantzeskakis

MSU PLS Assistant Professor Michael Wahman and PhD student Nikolaos Frantzeskakis have published an article discussing how the symbolic power of a female president affects female parliamentary behavior.


How does the symbolic power of a female president affect female parliamentary behavior? Whereas female descriptive representation has increased around the world, women parliamentarians still face significant discrimination and stereotyping, inhibiting their ability to have a real voice and offer “thick” representation to women voters. We leverage the case of Malawi, a case where the presidency changed hands from a man to a woman through a truly exogenous shock, to study the effect of a female president on female parliamentary behavior. Drawing on unique parliamentary transcripts data, we argue and show that women MPs under a female president become empowered and less confined to stereotypical gendered issue-ownership patterns, leading to a significant increase in female MP speech making. Our results directly address theories of symbolic representation by focusing particularly on intraelite role-model effects.

TypeResearch Article