Do women leaders enact more hawkish foreign policies? Some research argues women leaders are more likely to adopt aggressive and masculine characteristics to obtain national office. As a result, women leaders should exhibit more hawkish behavior than men. In this study we re-examine the relationship between the women leaders and foreign policy by focusing on military spending behavior. We argue that conventional empirical methods, such as linear regression, are ill-suited to examine data on women leaders and military spending. These methods are sensitive to outliers and small sample sizes: two characteristics of women leadership. To address these issues, we use the synthetic control method to estimate the military spending behavior of women leaders. By creating unique synthetic counterfactuals for three prominent women leaders – Thatcher, Gandhi, and Meir – we analyze what would have happened if a particular state had a male leader. Generalizing beyond these cases, we also conduct a multiple treatment test that examines the effect of women leadership jointly across multiple countries and time periods. We find that women leaders do not spend more on the military than men. We analyze plausible explanations of these null results and discuss their implications.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.