The Inclusion Calculation: Why Men Appropriate Women's Representation with Prof. Melody E. Valdini

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor
  • Lecturer: Prof. Melody E. Valdini (Portland State University)
  • Organiser: Uppsala Forum
  • Contact person: Elin Bjarnegård
  • Seminarium

In the existing literature on women’s representation, there is a substantial focus on the institutional, structural, and cultural factors that impact the descriptive representation of women – i.e., the number of women in power. These are all critically important determinants, but they are not the whole story. What we don’t know yet is why the group already in power – men – would allow women into the political sphere. That is, given that all governments today are patriarchies, and that all political parties have men in a majority of their leadership positions, then women’s representation should not be thought of as a story driven entirely by over-arching contextual factors and women’s ambition, but also by the individual choices of male gatekeepers that control the political parties and governments. In this talk, I examine two contexts in which men find an advantage from increasing the presence of women candidates on party lists: after a substantial, publicized  corruption incident and during the decline of a democracy. In both of these contexts, I argue that the stereotypes associated with women – honest, cooperative, and inherently democratic – become useful to men, and thus they purposefully associate themselves and their parties with women in order to benefit from these assumptions. I find evidence that we should not interpret recent increases of women leaders as a sign that we are nearing broad acceptance of gender equality; rather, it seems that women are most likely to be included when men can benefit from our presence.

Speaker Bio
Melody E. Valdini is a professor of political science at Portland State University and co-editor of the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. She was recently selected as a Fulbright-Schuman Distinguished Scholar, and is thus spending 2023/24 at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. Her research focuses on the consequences of institutional design, with a particular focus on electoral systems, political parties, and women's leadership.