Female leaders and violence

Adam Nossiter had a recent article in the NY Times entitled “Woman Chosen to Lead Central African Republic Out of Mayhem.”  The piece details the ascension of Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president of the Central African Republic.  What was most interesting to me about the article was the emphasis on gender and what that might mean for the future of the CAR.  Here are some examples:

“Female spectators broke into joyful shouts, cheers and trilling. The consensus, in the chamber and on the street, was that men had inexorably led the country into a spiral of vicious violence, and that the only hope was for a woman to lead it out.”

“Everything we have been through has been the fault of men,” said Marie-Louise Yakemba, who heads a civil-society organization. “We think that with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”

“Our country is at the brink of implosion,” Ms. Samba-Panza acknowledged to the assembly on Monday. “The situation is catastrophic. More than ever, the country needs someone who can bring it together.” She pointed to her “sensibility as a woman” as the crucial ingredient that could lead to peace.”

“’As a woman, she can understand the sufferings of the people, and as a mother, she will not tolerate all of this bloodletting,’ said Annette Ouango, a member of a Central African women’s group.”

“’The men have done nothing but fight,’ said Judicaelle Mabongo, an 18-year-old student in downtown Bangui. ‘The men, they are fighting. But they are only destroying the country. This woman, she might be able to change things.'”

This got me thinking about the relationship between female leadership, violence, and economic development. Is it true that women leaders are associated with less violence and more development?  Or have there just been too few women to make a fair comparison? I turned to one of my favorite colleagues at OU, Dan Hicks, who has written a lot on gender and economics (click here to see his research).

Dan has a paper (co-authored with Joan Hamory Hicks and Beatriz Maldonado) called “Female Legislators and Foreign Aid.”  Here is what they found:

Research has shown that increased female representation in government can alter the scale and scope of national expenditure because of differences in median preferences between men and women. We investigate whether changes in the gender composition of national legislatures in donor countries impact the level and pattern of foreign aid. We show that as donors elect more female legislators, they increase aid both in total and as a percentage of GDP. These increased flows occur predominately through bilateral aid and reflect a redistribution of aid towards developing countries and for humanitarian purposes in particular. While the election of women to political offices is potentially correlated with the preferences of the electorate, we present evidence that female representatives exert a causal influence on aid through the inclusion of fixed effects and a series of quasi-experimental checks.

As to the questions of gender and violence, he pointed me to these two papers:

Mary Caprioli and Mark Boyer “Gender, Violence, and International Crisis“, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2001, vol. 45, no. 4, 503-518.

Women work for peace, and men wage war—cooperative women, conflictual men. These images pervade conventional wisdom about the efficacy of women in leadership roles and decision-making environments, but imagery is not always grounded in reality. Feminist international relations literature is examined to understand how domestic gender equality may help predict a state’s international crisis behavior. The authors use the record of female leaders as primary decision makers during international crises and then test the relationship between domestic gender equality and a state’s use of violence internationally. The International Crisis Behavior (ICB) data set and multinomial logistic regression are used to test the level of violence exhibited during international crises by states with varying levels of domestic gender equality. Results show that the severity of violence in crisis decreases as domestic gender equality increases.

and Erick Melander’s Gender Equality and Intrastate Armed ConflictInternational Studies Quarterly 49(4), 2005, 695-714.

In this article, I examine to what extent gender equality is associated with lower levels of intrastate armed conflict. I use three measures of gender equality: (1) a dichotomous indicator of whether the highest leader of a state is a woman; (2) the percentage of women in parliament; and (3) the female-to-male higher education attainment ratio. I argue that the first two measures in particular capture the extent to which women hold positions that allow them to influence matters of war and peace within a state. I further argue that all three measures, but especially the last two, capture how women are valued relative to men in a society, that is, the relative degree of subordination of women. Whereas female state leadership has no statistically significant effect, more equal societies, measured either in terms of female representation in parliament or the ratio of female-to-male higher education attainment, are associated with lower levels of intrastate armed conflict. The pacifying impact of gender equality is not only statistically significant in the presence of a comprehensive set of controls but also is strong in substantive terms.

So the answer to whether female leaders lead to less violence, the evidence seems to be mixed.  It is interesting though to see that more gender-equal societies tend to have less conflict.

Are Leaders to Blame for Slow Growth?

Andrew Mwenda has another excellent article up on the Independent.  He argues that it isn’t helpful to blame Africa’s economic problems on bad leadership.  It may be true that Africa has had a disproportionate share of bad leaders, but this just begs the question of why bad leaders keep rising to the top.  Here are some of his main points:

1. “Sub-Saharan Africa has had many changes of leaders over the last 50 years – in all over 300 presidents. Basic mathematical probability would tell you that if the personalities of these individual presidents were the main explanation for poor performance, out of these 300 leaders Africa would have had a high chance to produce the hero we have been looking for like a Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), a Park Chung Hee (South Korea) or a Chiang Kai Shek (Taiwan). Yet even after 14 presidents of Nigeria, 10 of Ghana, eight of Uganda, four of Tanzania and Kenya, five in Zambia etc we have not seen this happen.

2. Our leaders don’t come from Asia or Europe. They are products of our societies. Therefore, even if their venality was the driving force behind our poverty and bad politics, there must be unique fissures within our societies that produce such a disproportionate amount of poor leadership.

3. There was as much corruption, dictatorship and nepotism in Indonesia under Suharto as in Nigeria under its various military rulers. Yet the developmental results of the two countries were different. In South Korea two former military rulers were arrested and tried for corruption in the 1990s – Chang Du Hwan and Tae Won Roh and both admitted to accumulating fortunes worth over US$ 600 million while in office. 

4. This tendency to perpetually condemn our political leaders is actually one way we African elites exonerate ourselves of the blame we must share and allows us to carry a holier-than-thou attitude.”

Mwenda consistently has interesting and thought provoking columns on development and comparisons between Africa and Asia.  I’ve been so impressed that I have incorporated a couple of them into my Ph.D. syllabus on economic development.