Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Udaya R. Wagle

Second Advisor

Dr. Oniwu W. Ogbomo

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy S. Patterson


Women's representation, gender quotas, women in parliament, politics and gender, women in politics in Africa, determinants of women's representation


Women all over the world face significant social, cultural, political, and economic barriers that prevent them from obtaining leadership positions. Africa is no exception. However, in the past four decades, Africa has shown a remarkable increase in the number of women gaining political leadership positions, in particular as representatives in parliaments. Due to this remarkable increase in the number of women in parliament in africa, there is a dearth of literature exploring this phenomenon more systematically. Most studies on women’s representation focus on the context of developed countries. The few studies on the African continent are mostly single case studies that cannot be generalized to a larger context. Any quantitative studies on the topic lack depth, in terms of the number of countries and years covered and the ability to provide theoretical explanations for the observed changes.

This study contributes to the current literature by analyzing changes in women’s representation in African parliaments and by examining their major determinants, as well as substantive impacts on public policies. Using time-series cross-sectional, panel data of 53 African countries over a period of 21 years from 1990 to 2010, the focus is on how three broader sets of variables—political-institutional, contextual, and socioeconomic— help explain the bases for the changes that most countries in Africa are experiencing in women’s political representation.

Findings from multivariate analyses suggest that many political-institutional factors such as gender quotas, multiparty elections, and proportional representation electoral systems offer the most explanatory power for women’s representation generally, whereas the key contextual factors, including internal conflicts and their magnitude, have a significant impact on women’s representation at some regional levels. This study also finds that an increase in women’s political representation results in an improvement in the focus and substance of public policies operationalized, in terms of public expenditures on health and education. This study highlights the contemporary African experience with regard to how governments and women’s movements can help increase women’s representation in parliaments, and how the individual countries can sustain the current trend of such increasing newfound representation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access