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O sister, where art thou? Theory and evidence on female participation at citizen assemblies

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This article investigates gender differences in participation at the citizen assembly of Glarus, Switzerland. We use original survey data collected among 800 citizens. We find significant gender gaps both for attending and holding a speech at the assembly. Lower female attendance is particularly pronounced among older cohorts and can largely be explained by gender differences in political interest, knowledge and efficacy. In contrast, the gender gap in speaking is substantial regardless of age and cannot be reduced to factors that typically shape participation. Hence, gender differences are disappearing in voting but persist in more public, interactive forms of political engagement.
Key messages

Original insights into female voting and speaking in one of the world’s largest citizen assemblies.
Women use their political rights in citizen assemblies significantly less often than men.
Gender gap in citizen assemblies is decreasing for attendance but persists for holding speeches.
The gender gap in speaking at citizen assemblies cannot be explained by age or political motivation factors.
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Keywords: Landsgemeinde; Switzerland; citizen assembly; direct democracy; gender; participation

Affiliations: University of Berne, Switzerland

Appeared or available online: January 28, 2019

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