Gendered Communication and Women's Political Careers in 24 Democracies
Women politicians face a paradox when acting in parliament: on the one hand, substantively representing women pushes them to have a more gendered style and to sometimes focus their activity on so-called "women's issues", such as education and healthcare. On the other hand, many voters have a gendered perception of politics, and have harsher evaluations of women politicians, potentially punishing them for acting in this gender stereotype-conforming behavior. Furthermore, research on organizational behavior has shown that women who progress to higher positions in a hierarchy typically dominated by men tend to adopt more stereotypical masculine traits. In that case, having a markedly feminine style can lead to slower career progression of women politicians. We investigate how these contradictory incentives have influenced women's parliamentary trajectories in twenty-four democracies of Europe (East and West), North America, and Oceania between 1987 and 2020. We have used different sources to collect 7.4 million parliamentary speeches from those countries within this time frame, and use a machine learning model to measure the genderedness of each speaker. Subsequently, we investigate the relationship between discourse genderedness and women's progression in parliament over time, more specifically the relationship with how long they stay in parliament. Findings suggest that women MPs have a less distinctively feminine voice the longer they stay in parliament, even controlling the topics they talk about. This research helps us understand the individual incentives that shape how women represent women in parliament and the institutional structures that influence this relationship.
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