Senior thesis extends to International Studies Association convention

Research that began as a senior thesis at Dominican recently was presented at the International Studies Association Convention in Baltimore February 24 thanks to the ongoing mentoring relationship between Magda Fitipaldi ’15 and her undergraduate advisor Dr. Gigi Gokcek, associate professor of Political Science.

In 2014 before graduating, Magda traveled to her native Uruguay to interview Senator Lucía Topolansky, the First Lady of Uruguay, for her senior thesis focused on the role of women in politics. Magda continued her research while working on her MA in Latin American Studies at Stanford University, collaborating with Gokcek and Dr. Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, Dominican’s Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations.

The study for ISA, titled “The Relationship Between Human Development Index (HDI) and the Percentage of Women in Parliament: Why Some Countries May Have Fewer Women in Office,” explores why the numbers for women in legislative office continues to lag behind those of men, even among more developed countries.

The authors first examined the relationship between a country’s HDI score and women in legislative office.

“Although an immediate response might assume that a better HDI score translates to higher numbers of women in office, we find just the opposite,” state the authors. “We argue that, in spite of a relatively high HDI, attitudes regarding traditional gender roles in society may influence the percentage of women in high office.”

Preliminary findings revealed that regardless of HDI, the attitude among elites toward traditional gender roles may explain why some developing countries have fewer women securing parliamentary seats.

Using Uruguay as a case study, the authors used elite interviews to better understand the relationship between HDI and women in high office in that country. In Latin America, Uruguay ranks third best for HDI, but 16th worst out of 22 countries for the number of women in legislative office.

The researchers discovered that Uruguay’s machista culture “outweighs the predicted relationship between the HDI and the numbers of women elected to office.”

“We found that this machista culture increases discrimination against women taking a broader role in politics, creates structural impediments that prevent large numbers of women from reaching office, and stratifies traditional gender roles,” note the authors. “In an era in which female participation in politics has become even more important on a global scale, this paper represents a valuable contribution to the body of work dedicated to this topic by helping us to better understand the complex relationship with female participation in politics and relative prosperity."


February 24, 2017