Single-Axis Politics and the Political Dominance of Ethnic Majority Men Worldwide

Melanie M. Hughes, University of Pittsburgh

In every corner of the globe, men from majority ethnic groups continue to dominate national politics. One of the ways the status quo of majority men’s political overrepresentation is maintained is through what I call single-axis politics. Political attention directed towards one axis of identity – e.g., ethnicity, gender – may deflect attention from other axes of inequality and help to stabilize majority men’s political dominance. In this paper, I consider one direction that single-axis politics might take, political emphasis on ethnicity at the expense of policies that reduce gender inequality in politics. I use event history techniques to analyse national gender quota adoption in 164 countries between 1989 and 2013, focusing on effects of ethnic heterogeneity, ethnic representation policies, and ethnic democracy. Results show that greater religious heterogeneity, long-standing ethnic representation policies, and ethnic democracy all reduce the likelihood that countries adopt national gender quotas. However, more recently adopted ethnic representation policies increase the likelihood of gender quota adoption. Overall, these analyses suggest that some (but not all) forms of political attention to ethnicity serve as substantial barriers to institutional change benefiting women, leaving majority men’s political dominance intact. 

About the speaker

Melanie M. Hughes is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL) at the University of Pittsburgh. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on the political representation of women worldwide. Dr. Hughes’s research has garnered national awards in the US and has been widely published, including 19 refereed journal articles, 7 book chapters, and a co-authored book titled Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective, now in its Third Edition (CQ Press, 2016). Much of her work predicts variation in women’s legislative outcomes across countries. She has researched effects of civil war, democratisation, gender quotas, and the international women’s movement, among others. Data collection, measurement, and methodology are a prominent focus of Dr. Hughes’s research. She has published datasets on women’s political representation (2008, 2012), legislative gender quotas (2017), and women’s international organisations (2016). Dr. Hughes also works to connect her research to policymakers, practitioners, and the public. From 2013-14, she consulted with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve measurement of women’s political leadership. Along with Dr. Müge Finkel, she is the faculty co-lead of the Ford Institute for Human Security research group on Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA), a collaborative research effort with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Currently, she is working on a research monograph on the political dominance of men from majority racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Dr. Hughes has a PhD and MA from The Ohio State University and a BA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Venue: UNU-MERIT, Room 2.22

Date: 21 November 2017

Time: 14:00 - 15:00