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The effect of media sexism on women's political ambition: evidence from a worldwide study.

Journal article
Authors Amanda Haraldsson
Lena Wängnerud
Published in Feminist Media Studies
Volume 19
Issue 4
Pages 525-541
ISSN 1468-0777
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 525-541
Language en
Keywords Media sexism, political candidates, bystander effect, Large-N study, global data
Subject categories Political Science, Media and Communications


This paper presents results from one of the first global studies on the relationship between media sexism and the share of candidates for the lower chamber of national parliaments who are women. Data on media sexism come from the Global Media Monitoring Project, the most reliable worldwide source for media coverage from a gender perspective. The data on share of female political candidates come from the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The results show that that there is, even when controlling for the number of women in parliament, electoral system, gender quotas, level of human development, level of women’s rights, freedom from corruption, and media access, a significant relationship between media sexism—measured as (i) the share of all news subjects that are women and (ii) the share of all news subjects portrayed in the function of experts who are women—and the share of women candidates for parliament: the higher the level of media sexism, the lower the share of women candidates. The theory discussed zooms in on a bystander effect: We hypothesize that sexist portrayals of women in the media stifle ambition among women who, in a less sexist media environment, would be willing to stand as political candidates.

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