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AU Scholars | Spring 2017 Research Courses

Keeping Women in the Wings or Inviting them to the Party: Evaluating the Role of Women’s Units in Political Parties

Course Time: T 11:20 AM to 2:10 PM 

Description: Many political parties have women’s wings. In one study, approximately half of the parties in Europe had them (see Childs and Kittilson, Party Politics 2016). But are these organizations good or bad for women? A women’s party unit could be a way for women to gain representation, a “safe space” for women to burnish their political skills and work together to pressure the party to address their issues. Or, women’s units may provide a mechanism for parties to limit the participation of women and ghettoize women’s issues. We can’t answer this question at present because there is no data and almost no scholarship on women’s units within political parties. Students in this course will begin to fill this important gap. 

This project will develop a comprehensive database on women’s units within political parties the world over. Students will work in regional teams to document the presence of women’s wings, their status, autonomy, resources, and policy-making powers as well as the presence of women in party leadership. If time permits, we will use statistical software to begin testing hypotheses about the usefulness of women’s political party organizations. 

The project will give students the opportunity to participate in designing the research process and collecting the data. Students will learn how to develop comparable measures of cross-national phenomenon and engage in conducting original research, using primary documents such as party constitutions and official records, as well as, potentially, interviews with party members and staff. The project will also give students the opportunity to practice their written and oral communications skills, hone their problem-solving and critical inquiry skills and develop teamwork.