Shattering the Glass Ceiling in Eastern Europe? the Rise of Female Presidents

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 356 (University of Glasgow)
Ausra Park , Political Science, Siena college
Despite a large number of publications in gender and leadership studies on political executives, scholarship on women presidents remains an understudied field. With few exceptions, research on female political executives is primarily focused on Latin American region, where a number of females have recently achieved the highest political positions, and, especially, on single-case studies in different parts of the world (i.e., German Chancellor Merkel, Finnish President Halonen, South Korean President Park, etc.). Meanwhile, comparative research on women executives is nearly non-existent. My project is unique because it is focusing on a neglected geographic region—post-communist Eastern Europe—where women presidents have become a “new political normal.” Starting with Latvia’s Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, and followed by Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite, Kosovo’s Atifete Jahjaga, and recently Croatia’s Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, this project will offer an in-depth examination of political circumstances, contextual paths and powers, as well as leadership traits of the four women presidents. My study seeks answers the following questions: What are the circumstances that allow women in Eastern Europe to reach the highest national positions? Are there any auspicious conditions that females benefit from, which could account for their political successes? As political actors and “glass ceiling breakers” how do they influence the established power hierarchy? What kind of leadership impact do they have, and is it different from their male counterparts? How much of a feminist agenda do these first female presidents advance? In answering these questions, this project will fill in existing gaps in gender, political leadership, and area studies’ literatures.