Gendered Gatekeepers - Barriers to Women in Party Controlled Candidate Selection
My dissertation and book project, Gendered Gatekeepers: Barriers to Women in Party-Controlled Candidate Selection, examines how the gatekeepers within political parties evaluate women and men during candidate selection processes. The existing literature largely focuses on the experiences of women who compete for office in countries with formal and transparent candidate selection processes, whether voter-based primaries in the United States or party-based mechanisms in most of Western Europe. Yet, the majority of women who seek elected office in democratizing countries around the world are primarily evaluated through party-controlled candidate selection processes that are often opaque and informal. Focusing on the intra-party dynamics of candidate selection, I investigate the conditions in which party gatekeepers, or the selectorate, are more likely to choose women to stand for election.
I argue that current models of candidate selection, particularly in new democracies, are misspecified because they overlook two key actors who are central to the evaluation of women candidates: the selectorate and the family. The selectorate are the party leaders and members who choose which individuals will stand as candidates for the party in an election. In studying the candidate preferences of the selectorate, I demonstrate that their personal experiences and characteristics affect the candidate preferences expressed during the selection process. I show that the candidate attributes the selectorate prefer are not merely individual; they are familial. Despite the transition to multiparty elections in many countries, the personal status of individuals in many societies remains tied to the political and social influence of their families. In this context, I show that the family attributes preferred by the selectorate are conditioned by the gender of candidates. I demonstrate that the selectorate will evaluate men more highly for having a traditional family dynamic, thus simultaneously rewarding men who are heads of households while penalizing women who deviate from traditional expectations. I find that women are elevated in candidate selection only when their families have demonstrated partisan loyalty over the long term. In the rest of my work, I explain the origins and mechanisms for this gender-based difference in the evaluation of family attributes, offering a corrective to existing work which has largely ignored how families (beyond childrearing and marital status) can affect a woman’s political prospects.
My research presents a valuable contribution to the study of women in politics by extending the methods and data sources typically used in this area. Building on over 90 in-depth interviews with candidates, party members, parliamentarians, and activists in Zambia, I have developed two original sources of data that provide unique insights into the composition and preferences of party selectorates. First, I compiled the actual candidate recommendation reports produced by selectorates during candidate selection within Zambia’s two main national parties in 2016. I analyze these reports to assess how candidate gender and attributes influence a selectorate’s ultimate recommendation. Additionally, I conducted survey experiments among over 1,300 party members to assess how their individual characteristics and preferences affect candidate selection.
The dissertation project takes a multi-method approach presenting utilizing newly collected data - interviews, party records, and a survey experiment - to support the claims.
The theory was generated from 90 interviews and over seven months in the field in Zambia.
List of aspirants from the most recent 2016 election, surprisingly difficult information to collect, was recorded and coded – demonstrating the low rates of women candidate application selection.
The gendered nature of recommendations was found and analyzed through candidate recommendations; documents that highlight the higher bar set for women aspirants to be deemed qualified.
The survey experiment was then modeled to test these claims, designed to mirror the internal party dynamics of candidate selection and implemented throughout the country (N~2,000).
The Pre-Analysis Plan can be found here.
The Survey Instrument can be found here.
Chapter 1: Introduction
In this chapter, I introduce the puzzle of low levels of women's representation in democratizing states with party-controlled candidate selection. I review current existing explanations for descriptive representation across the world, underscoring gaps in current theories. From there I lay out my theory on misspecified models of candidate selection and how it explains the gendered nature of candidate selection and increasing costs women face when vying for political office. I then discuss the implications of my argument and the empirical strategy that I employ to support it.
Chapter 2: Theory - Misspecified Models of Candidate Selection
In this chapter, I introduce the core argument of the book. I argue that current models of candidate selection, particularly in new democracies, are misspecified because they overlook two key actors who are central to the evaluation of women candidates, namely, the selectorate and the family. The selectorate are the party leaders and members who choose which individuals will stand as candidates for the party in an election. In studying the candidate preferences of the selectorate, I demonstrate that they are not a monolithic group. Rather, their personal experiences and characteristics affect the candidate preferences they express during the selection process. I then proceed to show that the candidate attributes the selectorate prefer are not merely individual; they are familial. Despite the transition to multiparty elections in many countries since the end of the Cold War, the personal status of individuals in many of those societies remains tied to the political and social influence of their families. In this context, I show that the family attributes preferred by the selectorate are conditioned by the gender of candidates.
Chapter 3: Empirical Framework – Investigating Candidate Selection
This chapter details the empirical strategy used to investigate the barriers women face when striving for political office. It outlines the fieldwork totally in over a year in the field. I summarize the candidate selection records that I collected and I provide descriptive stats from the records. From there, I introduce the survey experiment detailing the design and sampling strategy. I discuss the strengths and limitations of both experimental designs and conclude with the implications and lessons from this multi-method approach.
Chapter 4: Who are the gatekeepers, who are the aspirants?
Who are political gatekeepers? This chapter provides a comparative overview on the control of barriers political gatekeepers pose to marginalized groups. I look at the selectorate closely in Zambia, highlighting the vast heterogeneity in the individuals who determine the face of democracy. From there, I looks at the data from my candidate records and survey to evaluate common assumptions and expectations of who makes up the selectorate. I use the data from my candidate records and survey to evaluate common assumptions and expectations of who makes up the selectorate. I then turn to the aspirants. I describe what the average political aspirant looks like in Zambia. I analyze common expectations on electability using my original aspirant dataset. I conclude by looking at the relationships between gatekeeper attributes and aspirants attributes.
Chapter 5: Dynamics of Candidate Selection
Using original data collected from party selectorates in Zambia, this chapter investigates the intra-party complexities that make up candidate selection in newer democracies. I demonstrate the nature of patronage and its affects on democratization. I show the consequences selection has on party stability through political defections. Collectively, I show why women have a harder time navigating this obscure, competitive, and costly process that is controlled by "the old boys club".
Chapter 6: The Recommendations of Gatekeepers
This chapter presents the findings from the first experiment. The first experimental component of the survey examines what recommendations the survey participants give to hypothetical candidates. Each participant will only see one hypothetical candidate. I look at the role party members play as recruiters and mentors, in addition to selecting. I review the literature on the gendered barriers women face in political recruitment. From there, I present both the qualitative and quantitative findings.
Chapter 7: Family Matters
In studying the preferences of party selectorates over candidates, I argue that greater attention must be paid to the family background of candidates. Candidates are not solely judged by their individual attributes; they are evaluated on the basis of family connections that are perceived in gendered ways. In this chapter, I argue that women are differentially evaluated through resource and loyalty mechanisms. Whereas party selectorates reward men in candidate selection for having access to family resources, they are more likely to reward women when they come from families with histories of demonstrated partisan loyalty. I evaluate these claims through a study of candidate evaluations made by over 1,000 party selectorates in Zambia. Using a conjoint analysis framework, the chapter provides several novel findings in the study of women in politics. First, I show that family background is one of the strongest predictors of candidate selection for both men and women; it is also one of the most gendered. I show that men benefit when their families have contributed financially to a party, while women benefit when their families have mobilized support for a party over many elections—a costlier signal of partisan loyalty. Second, I show that the gender of party selectorate does not substantively change how candidates are evaluated: both male and female selectorates judge women candidates in the same way.
Chapter 8: Conclusion
To conclude the book, I summarize the argument and the empirical findings. I then spend time highlighting the implications of my research. Finally, I conclude by discussing the policy recommendations for women empowerment campaigns that are prevalent in newer democracies.
The research was made possible with support from the NSF DDRIG, UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies Fellowship, and the Center for African Studies Rocca Fellowship.