Sunday, March 24, 2013

Farida Jalalzai's "Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact?"

Farida Jalalzai is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact?: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide, and reported the following:
The numbers of women presidents and prime ministers grew substantially over the last five decades and women now govern in many vastly different contexts. This book analyzes patterns related to women executive’s paths and powers. It examines how gender is embedded within institutions and processes, often limiting women’s representational impacts. The glass ceiling truly shattered in contexts like Finland (where, to date, three different women leaders came to power), only cracked in the United Kingdom (with Margaret Thatcher as the only example of a female prime minister), and remains firmly intact in the United States (with still no cases of a female president).While many findings suggest substantial gains for women, they still face many obstacles in their pursuit of national executive office. Women, compared to their male counterparts, more often ascend to relatively weak posts and gain offices through appointment as opposed to popular election. When dominant women presidents do rise through popular vote, they still almost always hail from political families and within unstable systems.

While page 99 does not capture the book perfectly, it highlights the importance of the family route to office as a main path to power for women in Latin America and Asia. Dependent on males for their political significance, women “inherit” power. More apt to lead in unstable settings, they capitalize on gendered conceptions to advance unity in post conflict societies, benefiting from the familiarity of their names and numerous related perks. While overcoming barriers to their empowerment, family ties reinforce “feminine” characterizations of women as political proxies, diminishing their agency. I note throughout the book that the progress women have made in attaining executive office worldwide is a bit limited because nearly all women exercising dominant powers as presidents and elected by popular vote hail from political families. Page 99, however, also reveals that women’s reliance on the family in Latin America has subsided with women like Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica being excellent examples of broadening paths. Even Rousseff and Chinchilla, however, relied on their male presidential predecessors to gain power (Oscar Arias and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva respectively). As such, page 99 does an excellent job of showing progress and continued limits, which is an enduring theme of Shattered, Cracked, and Firmly Intact.
Learn more about Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue