Comparative European Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 112–131 | Cite as

Still a glass ceiling? Tracing the limits to women’s representation in elected office

  • Corinna KroeberEmail author
  • Vanessa Marent
  • Jessica Fortin-Rittberger
  • Christina Eder
Original Article


This article investigates the representation of women on the three subnational levels of government in Germany from 1995 to 2013, drawing on a novel data collection. Although longitudinal trends point to an overall increase on the national level, we find large variations—both upturns and downturns—from one election to the next on the state, district, and municipal levels. Our results suggest that a saturation point in women’s representation in subnational assemblies, located around 25%, largely accounts for these fluctuations. Assemblies featuring a high proportion of female officeholders before an election are more likely to experience stagnation and declines in subsequent elections. Legislatures with a low share of female representatives prior to an election, by contrast, experience the largest positive changes in their proportion of women. These findings contradict established theories that lead us to expect women’s representation to follow a self-reinforcing process, with parity as an end point. Rather, we find that women hit a ‘glass ceiling’ far sooner.


Women’s representation Subnational government Gender Elections Glass ceiling 



This work was supported by the Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung (Grant AZ


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corinna Kroeber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vanessa Marent
    • 1
  • Jessica Fortin-Rittberger
    • 1
  • Christina Eder
    • 2
  1. 1.University of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social SciencesMannheimGermany

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