Breaking Barriers: How Gender Quotas Transform Political Participation –

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Through the APSA Public Scholarship Program, graduate students in political science prepare new research abstracts in the American Political Science Review. This piece, written Komal Preet KaurTanushree Goyal, Princeton University, covers the new article. “Underrepresentation: How Women’s Grassroots Movements Promote Equal Political Participation.”He said.

Gender quotas have successfully brought women into political power. But the question remains: How and why do they influence women’s political participation? Especially in societies where entrenched role models act as barriers, within political parties and within families? In the near future Research Published in American Political Science ReviewTanushree Goyal delves into the world of female politicians in local politics, revealing their significant influence in shaping the political landscape, particularly in reducing gender-based barriers within political parties and the family.

India provides an ideal backdrop for this study. The country has a long history of gender inequality, with entrenched societal norms and traditional hierarchies that have historically limited women’s political participation. Although gender discrimination is prevalent in all walks of life, India has made significant progress in promoting women’s political representation by establishing gender quotas at the local government level. In India, gender quotas take the form of reserved seats, where half of all posts are randomly allocated to women candidates. In these reserved seats, only women can contest elections. So the winners in the election contest are women for these seats.

Goyal’s research focused on municipal elections in Delhi, India’s capital city of 23 million inhabitants. Goyal’s study focused on 272 municipal wards in Delhi, half of which were randomly assigned to women. She conducts a large scale survey with 1,664 respondents, 1,243 party activists and 92 incumbent local politicians. She compares voter interest, confidence and political knowledge in reserved and unreserved seats.

This study has compelling findings: female politicians hire more female party activists than their male counterparts. Female party activists, on the other hand, make equitable outreach efforts by connecting with both male and female voters during election campaigns. As a result, female voters have a higher level of political knowledge and increased participation in the political process. In this way, gender quotas not only facilitate the entry of women into politics, but also bring women voters closer to political discourse.

“This study dispels the common misconception that female party activists are less effective than their male counterparts.” Goyal’s research challenges the belief in the role-modeling effect, suggesting that the presence of women in politics sends powerful signals to people to change their views about the role of women in politics. However, Goyal found no evidence to support a role model effect. Instead, her work shows that women politicians can reduce women’s political participation at both the party and household level without changing entrenched gender norms through female party activists. This work suggests that the influence of role models may be limited in deep patriarchy, where traditional gender roles and norms strongly support men’s presence and influence, creating greater challenges for women.

This study dispels the common misconception that female party activists are less effective than their male counterparts. First, female party activists are rarely seen in the mainstream party organization and are often relegated to the party’s women’s wings. Moreover, scholarly work on party activists has largely focused on male party activists. According to Goyal’s research, female party activists are more successful in reaching out to women voters than male party activists. This finding is particularly relevant in the Indian context, where women’s electoral participation is now equal to that of men, and political parties are increasingly recognizing the critical role of women voters in channeling their electoral fortunes.

Thus, this study improves our understanding of the role of gender quotas and the implications of female politicians and party members for politics and society. Insights from this work raise many questions for future research. First, women politicians or constituencies in rural areas, such as Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Tribes, prompt the inquiry into the existence of a similar situation. Second, the study highlights the need for further investigation into how discrimination against women affects political opportunities, both within political parties and among voters. Finally, these findings encourage future scholars to further examine the role and effectiveness of women party activists, particularly in clientelistic environments, where party activists act as brokers to provide their political support to individuals.


  • Komal Preet Kaur It is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on public policies and governance reforms to reduce inequality. In particular, she examines areas such as voting quotas, property rights and social policies. Her dissertation examining the effects of gender- and ethnic-based voting quotas on ingroup bias and voter turnout received the Carrie Chapman Catt Women and Politics Research Award and a Women, Gender, and Grant from the American Political Science Association. Department of Political Studies. Her work has been published in Political Research Quarterly and Conservation Letters.
  • Article details: GOYAL, TANUSHREE 2023. “Underrepresentation: How Women’s Grassroots Movements Promote Equal Political Participation.”, American Political Science Review
  • About the APSA Public Scholarship Program.





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