Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises
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Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises

Edited by Jonathan Wilkenfeld, Kyle Beardsley and David Quinn

Current conceptions of mediation can often fail to capture the complexity and intricacy of modern conflicts. This Research Handbook addresses this problem by presenting the leading expert opinions on international mediation, examining how international mediation practices, mechanisms and institutions should adapt to the changing characteristics of contemporary international crises.
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Chapter 20: An experimental study of the role of gender in selecting third-party mediators in crisis resolution

Scott Sigmund Gartner, John Bangerter, Zackary Goncz, Michelle Sarver and Natalie Schreffler


The absence of women as international crisis mediators (especially as team leaders) is well documented. This chapter examines how disputants’ hostility interacts with gender to influence third-party mediator selection. Men are stereotypically seen as warriors – suggesting that people might want male mediators if they expect a tough fight. Women have long been perceived as more empathetic, making them more likely to be perceived as sympathetic to unfairness. An experimental study of over 390 subjects finds that when an adversary is more hostile, people strongly prefer male mediators. The stakes, however, and thus unfairness, do not play a role. Previous studies show that, compared to other forms of dispute management such as bilateral negotiations, third-party mediation is more likely to be employed in hostile disputes. Therefore, part of the preference for male mediators may derive from a gendered preference for mediators in hostile situations, a dynamic we call conditional sexism.

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