Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling
A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office
by Rainbow Murray, Editor
July 2010, 267pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38248-2
$55, £43, 48€, A76
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-38249-9
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To date, there have only been two female leaders of G8 countries, Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. The United States, where women’s lib has been on the front burner for more than 40 years, has yet to nominate a female candidate for its highest office. Are stereotypes still limiting women’s opportunities?

This examination of the role of gender stereotyping in media coverage of executive elections uses nine case studies from around the world to provide a unique comparative perspective.

In recent years, more and more high-profile women candidates have been running for executive office in democracies all around the world. Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women’s Campaigns for Executive Office is the first study to undertake an international comparison of women’s campaigns for highest office and to identify the commonalities among them. For example, women candidates often begin as front-runners as the idea of a woman president captures the public imagination, followed by a decline in popularity as stereotypes and gendered media coverage kick in to erode the woman’s perceived credibility as a national leader. On the basis of nine international case studies of recent campaigns written by thirteen country specialists, the volume develops an overarching framework which explores how gender stereotypes shape the course and outcome of women’s campaigns in the male-dominated worlds of executive elections in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australasia. This comparative approach allows the authors to discriminate between the contingent effects of a particular candidate or national culture and the universal operation of gender stereotyping.

Case studies include the campaigns for executive office of Hillary Rodham Clinton (United States, 2008), Sarah Palin (United States, 2008), Angela Merkel (Germany, 2005 and 2009), Ségolène Royal (France, 2007), Helen Clark (New Zealand, 1996-2008), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina, 2007), Michelle Bachelet (Chile, 2006), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia, 2005), and Irene Sáez (Venezuela, 1998).


  • Essays by 13 distinguished scholars combining research on gender and elections with expertise in a particular country
  • A table highlighting key findings for each case study, facilitating comparison in a way that has not previously been possible
  • A bibliography that brings together readings on gender, elections, and media stereotyping from the United States and eight other countries around the world
Rainbow Murray, PhD, is lecturer in politics at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, and the convener of two research networks. Dr. Murray is the author of Parties, Gender Quotas, and Candidate Selection in France and has published in journals such as Politics & Gender and Party Politics.


"Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling is both global and systematic in its comparison of gender in election campaigns for executive office. High quality contributions by leading scholars converge around common themes including gender stereotypes, news media coverage, women’s strategies regarding gender in the campaign and implications for election outcomes. Combining expert knowledge and systematic analysis of national campaigns with comparative insights, this volume breaks new ground on this important and cutting-edge topic and builds a solid framework for future research."—Miki Caul Kittilson, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University

"Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling is the first major work to examine why women candidates for executive office have been successful in some countries but not others. With top scholars and elegant methodology, it makes a unique and foundational contribution to the literature. This edited volume will be widely read by scholars and students alike."—Caroline Heldman, Associate Professor, Occidental College, and Coeditor of Rethinking Madame President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?

"Were the gender stereotyping and media bias that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin experienced in 2008 typical of what women candidates for high-level executive office face in other democracies? In Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling, Rainbow Murray and her contributors apply a common framework to their examination of nine women's candidacies for top executive positions across eight countries, resulting in an integrated volume that is far more than a series of individual case studies. Their analysis provides innovative insights, demonstrating that gendered media bias is prevalent across all countries while gender stereotyping surprisingly is not."—Susan J. Carroll, Professor, Rutgers University

"Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling is a wonderful contribution to the study of gender and elections. This will be a great resource for students, researchers, journalists, and anyone interested in the role gender plays in electoral politics. The contributions in this volume examine women's campaigns across the globe for the most powerful positions in the world. It is fascinating, to have recounted in such splendid detail, how women's campaigns for high office are playing out in cultural and political contexts from Liberia to Germany to Venezuela to the United States. By analyzing how women candidates have performed in these diverse environments really highlights the pervasive role that gender and gender stereotypes continue to exert in modern politics."—Richard Fox, Associate Professor, Loyola Marymount University
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