Democracy and Difference: Women’s Economic Rights and Political Advancement in Africa

Clay Room, Nuffield College, New Road, Oxford, OX1 1NF
October 2016

Leo Arriola, University of California Berkeley, will be speaking on the topic "Women’s Economic Rights and Political Advancement in Africa" as part of the Democracy and Difference Seminar Series 2016-17.

More women are becoming cabinet ministers in African governments, but there remains considerable cross-national variation in the extent to which they exercise influence across policy domains. We argue that this variation is the result of enduring national differences in women’s economic rights that originate in the colonial era. Where women are bound by coverture constraints — laws that subject women to male authority in controlling economic resources — they are less able to build the political capital needed to compete for leadership positions in clientelistic systems. Using data on the allocation of ministerial portfolios in African countries, we show that women have less diversified cabinet portfolios and are less likely to be appointed to high prestige portfolios where they face greater coverture constraints. Our results are robust to controlling for relevant factors such as level of democracy, legislative quotas, and customary laws.

The series is convened by Nancy BermeoMaya TudorEzequiel Gonzalez Ocantos and Jody LaPorte, and jointly supported by Blavatnik School of Government, Department of Politics and International Relations, and Nuffield College.

Open to all. Advanced sign-up is required – please email

Lunch is provided.