Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Political Science (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Courtney Burns


Do female chief executives on the political left exhibit better respect towards human rights than their counterparts on the political right? This paper explores the relationship between a female political leader and her ideology and how this relationship may influence policy attitudes, specifically, human rights practices within a country. I argue that women leaders face a political double bind in their actions and that their ideologies affect how they navigate this bind. Past research has found that women leaders must fulfill two roles: their role as leader and their role as woman (Paxton and Hughes 2014). Women leaders must work harder to win over support from the population by portraying both masculine (leader) and feminine (woman) traits. Practicing good human rights allows women to demonstrate their more feminine qualities of cooperation, negotiation, and care (Burns and Murdie forthcoming). I examine this relationship using four case studies on the following leaders: Golda Meir of Israel, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, Indira Gandhi of India, and Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain. I argue that the inclusion of these leaders is important, first, because they serve as chief executive of their country. Second, I can also compare both politically left and right leaning leaders from various regions around the globe. The outcomes of this research can shed light on gender stereotypes that impact women leaders and provide information for future candidacies of women leaders to the highest political office.