Improving Women's Substantive Representation in Community Government: Evidence from Chinese Villages

Sally Sargeson, Tamara Jacka

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The premise that increasing the number of women in government improves the representation of women's views and needs continues to motivate efforts in developing countries to raise the proportion of women in political office by means of gender-differentiating ideologies and gender-affirmative actions. This article raises the concern that a focus on boosting women's descriptive representation distracts attention from other interventions that potentially might be more effective in improving women's substantive representation. The article theoretically compares factors that have the potential to affect the two dimensions of representation, and empirically investigates which of these are conducive to women's substantive representation in community government. Based on case studies of villages in one rich and one poor province of China, the authors conclude that higher democratic quality, combined with stronger financial resources and institutions, produce greater improvements in women's substantive representation than gender ideologies and affirmative actions. This finding challenges the strategies used by development agencies, and identifies factors with the potential to improve women's representation in government, even in one-party states.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1166-1194pp
    JournalDevelopment and Change
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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