Gender stereotypes in politics: What changes when a woman becomes the local political leader?

Produced by: 
São Paulo School of Economics FGV
Available from: 
February 2014
Paper author(s): 
Paulo Arvate
Sergio Firpo
Renan Pieri
Gender Economics
Politics and Economy

This study documents how the presence of a woman in an executive political role affects the gender stereotype of women in politics. We use Brazilian electoral data and restrict our focus to close mayoral races (using an RDD design) in which the top two candidates are of opposite sexes. Our most important result was a reduction in the number of candidates and votes for female mayoral candidates after a woman is elected, regardless of her eligibility status for reelection. This negative result is linked only to the position of mayor and not to other political positions (councilor, state or federal deputy). In addition, our results may be interpreted as evidence that voters do not use their update on women as local leaders to change their beliefs on women’s ability to run for other political positions. Finally, female mayors do not appear to have a role model effect on younger cohorts of women. We also note that our results are not influenced by differences in mayoral policies (generally and specifically for women), which could influence voters’ gender stereotypes.


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