Navigating the current political climate can be tricky, especially as a female politician. Enter Professor Christina Xydias, who researches the intersection of gender and politics from a global perspective.
“I'm interested in the enduring political significance of gender and sex,” says Xydias, an assistant professor of political science in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. “There have been improvements, obviously, in women's access to positions of political influence over the last 60 years, but progress has been relatively slow. In some countries, including the U.S., the progress has stalled. I want to know why.”
Currently, she’s focused on Germany. Her research dives into differences among political parties, particularly their use of gender quotas to increase women’s involvement in political office. These quota rules are very different from the kinds of strategies that get traction in current U.S. politics.
“The word quota doesn't get very far in the U.S.,” says Xydias. “There's a sort of strong resistance to the idea that women should be actively recruited in order to fill a role; whereas, Germany is a place where much – though not all – of the country is like, ‘Sure, gender quotas seem like a reasonable response. Let's see how it works.’”
Xydias is in the middle of writing a book on this and related issues. Her in-progress book, The Conservative Woman, centers on the phenomenon of right-leaning political parties and their promotion of women’s rights and interests. The book will focus mainly on Germany, complemented by a cross-national analysis that also includes a look at the U.S. She hopes that her book will not only raise awareness about women’s political advancement, but also illustrate that there are more advocates for women than are often widely publicized.
“People don't look for allies in all the places that they might in order to achieve better outcomes for women,” says Xydias.
Christina Xydias, Assistant Professor of Political Science
To help sift through thousands of political documents, Xydias has had help from Clarkson students Karleene Diaz ’16 and Dallas Blowers ’18. The two have assisted Xydias in developing automated (computer) tools for analyzing political texts like party platforms and transcripts of legislative speeches. Their work has been instrumental to Xydias’s book project.
Her passion for this topic has also infiltrated the classroom in two of the international politics courses she teaches regularly. “Sex, Gender and Power” (PS355) addresses women’s participation in politics and “Close and Contested Elections” (PS370) focuses on how political culture interacts with political rules.
“You can’t understand what you don’t see,” says Xydias. “And you can’t change what you don’t understand. I hope to open students’ eyes to the wider political world and the role that gender plays in how people experience that world.”