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Conflict, Peace, and the Evolution of Women's Empowerment

  • Kaitlyn Webster, Chong Chen and Kyle Beardsley


How do periods of conflict and peace shape women's empowerment around the world? While existing studies have demonstrated that gender inequalities contribute to the propensity for armed conflict, we consider how the anticipation and realization of armed conflict shape women's opportunities for influence in society. Some scholars have pointed to the role that militarization and threat play in entrenching male dominance, while others have argued that periods of warfare can upend existing gender hierarchical orders. We posit mechanisms by which the preparation for and experiences during war affect change in women's empowerment. We develop and test observable implications using cross-national data from 1900 to 2015. We find that, at least in the short and medium term, warfare can disrupt social institutions and lead to an increase in women's empowerment via mechanisms related to role shifts across society and political shifts catalyzed by war. Reforming institutions and mainstreaming gender during peace processes stand to have important legacies for gender power relations in postconflict societies, though much more may be needed for more permanent change.



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Authors are listed in reverse alphabetical order with implied equal authorship. Earlier versions of this project were presented at research seminars hosted by the University of Toronto and Duke University, at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco (31 August–3 September 2017), and at workshops hosted by the Folke Bernadotte Academy in Vienna (3–4 October 2016), Oslo (19–20 January 2018) and San Francisco (7–9 April 2018). We are grateful for the constructive comments that participants at these conferences and workshops provided. We especially thank Sabrina Karim, Amelia Hoover-Green, Dara Cohen, Zoe Marks, Ragnhild Nordås, Erik Melander, Elin Bjarnegård, Angela Muvumba-Sellström, Louise Olsson, Oliver Kaplan, Alyssa Prorok, Mark Manger, Peter Feaver, and David Siegel. We are also grateful for the comments provided by the anonymous reviewers and the editors, Erik Voeten and Kenneth Schultz.



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Conflict, Peace, and the Evolution of Women's Empowerment

  • Kaitlyn Webster, Chong Chen and Kyle Beardsley


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