Melanie M. Hughes, PhD

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Link to my CV |

Current Projects

1. Managing Diversity: Explaining the Persistent Overrepresentation of Majority Men in Democratic Politics (book manuscript)

Over time, politicians elected to national office have become increasingly diverse. Nevertheless, men from majority groups continue to dominate national politics in most democratic countries. In this book manuscript, I explore ways the status quo of majority men's political overrepresentation is maintained. This study offers a new take on why--even in the face of intensifying pressure for change--majority men remain overrepresented in democratic politics worldwide. I will be working on this book while visiting at Uppsala University, University of Gothenburg, University of Bristol, and the WZB Social Science Research Center.

2. Transnational Networks Amid Global Crisis and Change

Funding: National Science Foundation (SES-1323130)

In this project, we map populations of transnational organizations, including inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), and transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs). This project uses network analysis to explore changes in network relations among IGOs, INGOs and TSMOs over the last thirty years. A key contribution of this study will the production of new data, including: 1) an updated biennial dataset on the population of TSMOs (adding the years 2005-2013) and 2) a new Inter-Organizational Networks Database of INGO, TSMO, and IGO connections, constructed decennially from 1983 to 2013. A secondary goal of this study is to bridge data and research on INGOs and TSMOs, allowing world polity and social movement scholars to understand if, when, and how social-change orientations of organizations matter. Collaborators: Jackie Smith, Samantha Plummer, Brittany Duncan, and Başak Gemici.

3. Measuring Women's Political Empowerment Worldwide

Both in scholarly research and through collaborations with international organizations, I have been working to improve the measurement of women's political empowerment worldwide. On the scholarly side, I am involved with a group of academics tackling women's political empowerment both conceptually and empirically. We met in Cologne in June 2015 at a workshop sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. I expect the project to result in an edited book. On the applied side, I have been consulting with USAID on their new model of women's political leadership (the Diamond Leadership Model) and helped to pilot a test of their new measure, the Women's Power Score. I am also collaborating with the UNDP to help develop a global tracking mechanism for data on gender equality in public administration (GEPA). On this front, I am co-leading a multi-disciplinary graduate student working group through the Ford Institute for Human Security at the University of Pittsburgh. The student group is working with members of UNDP to advance GEPA. Collaborators: Joshua Dubrow (scholarly co-author) and Müge Finkel (GEPA working wroup co-leader).

4. Quota Adoption and Reform Over Time (QAROT)

Over the last fifty years, gender quotas have transformed the composition of national legislatures worldwide. Yet, the vast majority of research to date has examined gender quota adoption in a single country or has looked across many countries at a single point in time. The pace and diversity of quotas adopted have complicated the production of systematic cross-national longitudinal data, limiting the questions researchers are able to ask. In this project, we produce the first publically available global dataset on gender quota adoption and reform over time. Our intention is that this data will serve as a public good to increase the quality of quota research as well as the types of questions that scholars of gender, representation, and institutional design will be able to explore. Collaborators: Amanda Clayton, Pamela Paxton, and Pär Zetterberg.

5. Women's International Nongovermental Organizations (WINGOs)

Funding: National Science Foundation SES-0962034 and SES-1067218

Over the last century, women increasingly transcended national boundaries to exchange information, build solidarity, and bring change. In this project, we collect and analyze network data on women's international nongovernmental organizations (WINGOs). Our dataset now runs from 1953 to 2008, but we are currently updating the data to 2013. Collaborators: Pamela Paxton, Sharon Quinsaat, and Nicholas Reith.

6. Global Ethnic Quota Database

We are working to develop a global database that would document and catalogue the rules and implementation practices for the representation and inclusion of minority ethnic and indigenous communities in governance systems around the world. Towards this end, we are organizing a one-day project development workshop that will precede the International Political Science Association meeting in Istanbul in July 2016. The workshop will be held in collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and will be hosted at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. Social scientists, practitioners and international NGOs will attend. Collaborators: Karen Bird, Elin Bjarnegard, and Jackie Steele.

7. Violence Against Women and Earnings Growth

Following up on our research published in American Sociological Review, we are focusing more directly on welfare reform in 1996. We are studying on the effects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) on the relationship between battering and women's earnings in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Collaborators: Lisa Brush.

8. Indigenous Women in Politics

Funding: Carrie Chapman Prize for Research on Women and Politics

We presently know little about the legislative representation of indigenous women around the world--even at a basic descriptive level. In this research, I collect data on the representation of women from indigenous groups in national legislatures worldwide. The project includes indigenous groups from all parts of the world, such as the Kuchis of Afghanistan, the Twa of Burundi, the Sami of Norway, and the Amazonian peoples of Brazil. The project produces a dataset including information on the legislative success of indigenous women along with comparative data on indigenous men.

Last updated: February 15, 2016

My Book

Book Cover: Click link to purchase.

3rd Edition now available from CQ Press,, as well as from other online retailers.