Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

Sell-outs or Warriors for Change? A Comparative Look at Conservative Women in Politics in Democracies

Publication Date



Malliga Och, Shauna Shames, and Rosalynn Cooperman


Routledge/Taylor & Francis


London, United Kingdom



First Page


Last Page



Political Science

Publisher Statement

This book addresses the central question of how right-wing women navigate the cross-pressures between gender identity and political ideology.

The hope has always been that more women in politics would lead to greater inclusion of women’s voices and interests in decision-making and policy. Yet this is not always the case; some prominent conservative women such as Margaret Thatcher have rejected the feminist label while others such as Angela Merkel have reluctantly accepted it. Republican women in the U.S. Congress have embraced social and economic policies contrary to what many consider to be women’s issues while EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is a staunch supporter of feminist ideas. Other conservative women, such as Marine LePen in France strategically use feminist ideas to justify their conservative stances on immigration. This brings up an interesting yet understudied question: under what circumstances do conservative women become feminist allies and when do they toe the party line? It is this tension between women’s political representation and conservatism that this edited volume explores. -- publisher


Women’s political incorporation encompasses suffrage as well as election into political office and inclusion in political leadership positions. Standard accounts of political parties’ support for women’s political incorporation differentiate between “the left” and “the right,” expecting that parties viewed left-leaning incorporate more women than those viewed as right-leaning. Drawing from previous research on comparative political institutions, parties, and ideologies, this study argues that we are more likely to find right-leaning parties that have incorporated women at higher rates in some systems than in others. Empirically, this study’s cross-sectional analysis of 281 political parties in 35 OECD member states shows that context matters for center and right parties’ incorporation of women, while left parties are more consistent cross-nationally. These findings controvert a homogeneous portrait of party families across political systems, pointing instead to the salience of context for differentiating among otherwise similar parties.