Policy Briefs

Women in politics: why are they under-represented?
Thursday, 11 March, 2021

Women are generally under-represented in political offices worldwide, and their under-representation becomes larger in more senior positions. In the first brief, the author reviews some recent academic literature in economics and political science on the likely causes of women’s under-representation. Broadly speaking, the literature has divided such causes into “supply-side” and “demand-side” factors: the former include women’s potentially lower willingness to run for political office, whereas the latter include voters’ and party leaders’ prejudices against women in politics. Understanding the underlying causes of women’s under-representation in political institutions is crucial in order to design the most effective policies to address the existing gender gaps. In concluding the author summarizes some of the policies that have been proposed or used to empower women in politics and reviews the evidence on their effectiveness when available.

In the second brief, the authors review the most recent evidence on women’s representation in Georgian politics, including the data from the 2020 Parliamentary elections. They find that introducing gender quotas in 2020 party lists has resulted in a slight improvement of the share of women in Parliament. However, this measure still fell short of its expected effect. They argue that both “supply-side” and “demand-side” factors driving women’s under-representation in Georgian politics need to be addressed in order for these shares to change in a meaningful way. The recommended policy interventions to help solve the problem in the long run range from maintaining and expanding binding gender quotas for political party candidates, supporting women’s participation in the labor market to tackling cultural stereotypes in the society, and financing leadership training programs for women.