College of Arts & Sciences Political Science Professor Receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to New Zealand

Louise Davidson-Schmich will Spend Five Months in Kiwi Capital Studying Female Prime Ministers


‌Over the past four decades, the number of women holding national-level political office has steadily increased throughout the world. However, only one country has appointed two women to its top leadership post: New Zealand.

Next year, Louise Davidson-Schmich, associate professor of political science in the UM College of Arts & Sciences, will spend four months there, conducting research on how these two former Prime Ministers – Jenny Shipley, 1997-1999, and Helen Clark, 1999-2008 – represented New Zealand women during their terms, and the lasting effect of their tenures on female Kiwis.

Davidson-Schmich will be based at the Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand’s capital city, where she will have access to parliamentary transcripts and news archives, and will be able to meet with individuals who worked closely with these two dynamic but very different leaders.

Davidson-Schmich’s project was inspired by her ongoing research on gender and politics in Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I could not always determine whether Merkel’s policies were inspired by her gender or by some other factor,” Davidson-Schmich says, noting that Merkel grew up in communist East Germany, and was trained as a physicist.

So she set her sights on New Zealand, “a country which experienced two very different female leaders serving back-to-back terms.” 

She explains, “If I could identify commonalities in the ways in which two very different women governed, I could better make claims that their gender played a role.”

Davidson-Schmich will travel to New Zealand in February 2016, and conduct her research there through July. She will also teach an undergraduate course on the comparative political economy of post-industrial democracies.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program provides approximately 800 teaching and/or research grants to U.S. faculty and experienced professionals in a wide variety of academic and professional fields each year. Program participants design their own research projects aimed at enhancing their existing scholarly interests.

The fellowship will give Davidson-Schmich “a wonderful opportunity to expand my intellectual horizons beyond the European focus of my research to date,” she says. Her forthcoming book is about gender quotas in Germany, and she has edited a special issue of the journal German Politics focusing on Merkel’s Chancellorship.

Davidson-Schmich served as the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program in the UM College of Arts & Sciences for the 2014-2015 academic year. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University.

June 30, 2015