Does National Culture Influence Global Policy Diffusion: Evidence From Gender Mainstreaming Policy Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Published date01 August 2023
AuthorJing He
Date01 August 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(7) 1334 –1368
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997231162548
Does National Culture
Influence Global Policy
Diffusion: Evidence From
Gender Mainstreaming
Policy Using Qualitative
Comparative Analysis
Jing He1
This study aims to pinpoint the combinations of national cultural traits
that influence the global diffusion of gender mainstreaming. First, it updates
national culture indices using factor analysis. Then, the study employs fuzzy-
set QCA to identify potential configurations in line with theories of cultural
contingency. A sample of 41 countries is examined. I find that current
diffusion requires a non-Islamic environment, while a high level of autonomy,
weak uncertainty avoidance, and gender quotas are sufficient for gender
mainstreaming. This study serves as the starting point for further research
on the relationship between national culture and the diffusion of gender
mainstreaming policy.
gender mainstreaming, policy diffusion, global study, Fuzzy-set QCA
1Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jing He, Florida State University, 627 Bellamy Building, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1058, USA.
1162548AAS0010.1177/00953997231162548Administration & SocietyHe
He 1335
Policy diffusion is not new to scholars of gender politics and comparative
feminist policy (Skocpol et al., 1993; Zippel, 2006). For instance, Katzenstein
and Mueller (1987) stressed the importance of the women’s movement in the
diffusion of feminist ideas in the United States and Europe, while other
scholars focused on the impact of international organizations on feminist
policy (Berkovitch, 1999; Boyle & Preves, 2000). However, virtually no
previous research has examined the influence of national culture on the
worldwide diffusion of gender policy. Therefore, this study attempts to
address this lacuna. Even though culture has been identified as a component
in several diffusion studies (Cunningham, 1995; Goodman et al., 1994), few
have given detailed evaluations of the link between policy diffusion and
culture. One reason is that culture is difficult to quantify accurately. Another
crucial factor is that certain cultural factors do not alter over time (i.e., it can
be considered a constant). Hence, standard quantitative approaches may not
be optimal for evaluating culture; therefore, a new method is required if we
wish to investigate the relationship between national culture and policy dif-
fusion in greater depth. Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) is a poten-
tial solution combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Ragin (1987)
characterizes it as “variable-/case-oriented.” The study utilized fuzzy set
qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA), which allowed me to determine
the cumulative effect of various cultural factors on the diffusion of gender
mainstreaming policy.
The study here explores the research question: Is national culture a neces-
sary and / or sufficient condition for the diffusion of gender mainstreaming
policy in the global context? by looking at 41 countries across the world. For
each country ( case) I examined:
(1) The diffusion of gender mainstreaming policy.
(2) The different values in national culture.
(3) Other possible conditions that could be important.
For the third item, the analysis focuses on conditions that scholarship con-
siders important (Duverger, 1955; Krook, 2007): gender quotas (an institu-
tional variable) and the dominant religion (a religious variable.
Gender mainstreaming, the focal gender policy, can be described as “the
process of assessing the implication for women and men of any planned
action, including legislation, policies, or programs, in all areas and at all
levels” (1997; agreed conclusions of ECOSOC1). In other words, it is a long-
term or systematic institutional approach for promoting or producing gender
1336 Administration & Society 55(7)
equality as a policy outcome or the most “modern” approach to gender
equality (Berger, 2007; Daly, 2005; Heikkinen et al., 2012). Although some
scholars worry that gender mainstreaming is “under-developed as a concept”
and still lacks elaboration on some fundamentals (Daly, 2005), in recent
years, prompted in part by global conferences sponsored by the United
Nations (UN) and the gender policies of the European Union (EU), myriad
state and non-state actors around the globe have created working coalitions to
leverage national-level reform efforts (True & Mintrom, 2001).
The findings here suggest that religion has a notably negative influence
on the diffusion of gender equality policies. In particular, countries domi-
nated by Islam are reluctant to embrace gender equality policies. In addi-
tion, three pathways of national cultural values impact the diffusion of
gender mainstreaming policy in different countries; a high degree of auton-
omyis a sufficient condition in all three pathways. While the religious fac-
tor inhibits diffusion of gender policies, some national cultural values
support diffusion. The results point to the complexity of building a theory
linking national culture and global gender policy diffusion. Overall, national
culture had a considerable impact on the global diffusion of gender main-
streaming policy.
Theoretical Framework
This study investigates the conditions of national culture by integrating
Hofstede’s indices and Schwartz’s cultural values, an institutional factor
(gender quotas), and a religious factor (the dominant religion) better to more
fully understand the global diffusion of gender mainstreaming policy. In
addition, institutional and religious factors were incorporated to help explore
how diverse values of national cultures might promote or hinder the diffusion
of gender policy. Based on existing research, it is anticipated that these fac-
tors would affect the diffusion of gender mainstreaming policy either sepa-
rately or through their interaction. Figure 1 provides a visualization of this
framework. Specifically, it indicates that each of these conditions has sub-
stantial effects on gender mainstreaming policy.
Theoretical Basis: Cultural Contingency Theory
Based on Rogers’s (1995) theory of innovation diffusion, a person’s beliefs
can affect his or her attitudes toward innovation, which drive the entire
diffusion process. In accordance with this idea, I hypothesize that global
policy diffusion is intimately related to national culture since it affects a
society’s shared values.

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