The Journal of Politics


All the President’s Men? The Appointment of Female Cabinet Ministers Worldwide

Mona Lena Krooka1 and Diana Z. O’Briena2

a1 Rutgers University

a2 University of Southern California


Women have traditionally been underrepresented among government ministers, and when included in cabinets have largely been relegated to “feminine” and low-prestige policy areas. Recently, however, some countries have witnessed changes in the number, gender, and/or prestige of women’s appointments. What accounts for this variation in women’s access to ministerial power? To answer this question, we posit three competing theoretical explanations: political institutions, social indicators of gender equality, and broader trends in women’s political recruitment. To test these hypotheses, we compile an original dataset of 117 countries and construct a new measure—the Gender Power Score—which differentially weights cabinet positions based on women’s numbers and the gender and prestige of the ministries to which they are assigned. Using a finite mixture model to evaluate competing hypotheses, we find that political variables—rather than social factors—have the strongest impact on gender parity in cabinets.


Mona Lena Krook is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

Diana Z. O’Brien is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089.