Theses Doctoral

Party Variation in Religiosity and Women's Leadership: Lebanon in Comparative Perspective

Kassem, Fatima

Gender inequality is a pervasive global phenomenon, particularly in parliamentary representation and the political realm as a whole. Previous scholarship looked for explanations in the countries' national development levels, political regimes and electoral systems. Some scholars searched for answers at the domestic level within societies' religious and cultural value systems. This dissertation departs from prior research by looking beyond the national domestic level into individual party-level explanations for women's political leadership, broadly defined to include their station within parties' decision-making inner structures. A core assumption in this thesis is that political institutions, mainly political parties, are the main vehicles - forklifts -- for women's ascendance to political leadership. This dissertation attempts to identify what party-level characteristics enhance or impede women's leadership in political parties, and how these characteristics vary across different parties. The theory advanced in this dissertation is that party-level characteristics, especially their religiosities and secularisms, influence women's chances in assuming leadership positions within parties' inner structures. I argue that the root of the problematic of women's leadership lies in party variation in religiosity, which can explain variation in women's shares in parties' executive and legislative bodies. This is premised on a multivocal understanding of religions implying that there is a continuum of multiple religiosities and secularisms. Religiosity of political parties refers to the religious components on their political platforms or the extent to which religion penetrates their political agendas. The core argument in this dissertation is that as religiosity in party platforms increases women's leadership is more likely to fall. This implies that in parties with more extensive religious goals women's leadership is likely to prove stunted. It is my contention that parties with extremist religiosity are less accommodating to women's demands for leadership than parties with more secular and civil platforms. The theory of party variation in religiosity and women's leadership is explored in-depth and tested in Lebanon as a single country case-study. Political parties are the unit of analysis and women's leadership in political parties is the main dependent variable. Female nominations for national parliamentary and local municipal councils are other dependent variables. Other party-level characteristics are explored as explanatory variables besides religiosity, notably, institutionalization as indicated by democratic procedures in leadership transitions and decentralized decision-making, pluralism in religious affiliation of members, and the size of female membership.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Kassem_columbia_0054D_10024.pdf Kassem_columbia_0054D_10024.pdf application/pdf 3.88 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Goodhart, Lucy
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 25, 2013

Related Items


Data related to this dissertation can be found at