Gender Norms and Women's Political Representation: A Global Analysis of Cabinets, 1979–2009



What role does the international diffusion of gender norms play in determining recent increases in women's political representation? We argue that norm diffusion has larger positive effects on women's cabinet representation than on women's legislative representation. We also show that within cabinets, norm diffusion affects low-prestige appointments more than high-prestige appointments. We test these arguments using an original database of ministers from 1979 to 2009 and find that the association of women's representation with three separate indicators of international diffusion—levels of women's representation among neighboring states, levels of women's representation among intergovernmental organization partners, and time since ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women—is consistent with our arguments.