Nine women world leaders : sexism on the path to office

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2012-12

Authors

Neely, Megan Tobias

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Abstract

Many obstacles preclude women from becoming presidents and prime ministers, yet a select group of women attain executive offices. How do they succeed? Drawing from 24 published autobiographies, interviews, and speech and letter compilations, this thesis evaluates how nine women political leaders explain their paths to office. Previous research identifies institutional, cultural, and political contexts that lead to women becoming leaders, but I argue that these women did not become political leaders just from opportunities provided to them by their families, political parties, and government systems. Rather, their experience, ambitions, and abilities account for their success. These women describe the formative influence of childhood experiences, formal education, and early careers in leading them to politics. Leaders refer to specific causes motivating them politically, but also reference mobilizing support from social networks to get ahead in politics. These women encounter gendered obstacles in their political careers and develop strategies to neutralize and overcome these barriers. These leaders’ narratives expose how women can reach powerful political positions by complying with cultural codes of masculinity, but also by redefining leadership in their own terms.

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