Women's Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil

The Rise and Fall of President Dilma Rousseff

Pedro A. G. dos Santos and Farida Jalalzai
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1618-6
Publication: Feb 21

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1617-9
Publication: Feb 21

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1619-3
Publication: Feb 21

214 pages
6 x 9
22 tables, 7 figs.

What the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In 2010, Dilma Rousseff was the first woman to be elected President in Brazil. She was re-elected in 2014 before being impeached in 2016 for breaking budget laws. Her popularity and controversy both energized and polarized the country. In Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil, dos Santos and Jalalzai examine Rousseff’s presidency and what it means for a woman to hold (and lose) the country’s highest power.

The authors examine the ways Rousseff exercised dominant authority and enhanced women’s political empowerment. They also investigate the extent her gender played a role in the events of her presidency, including the political and economic crises and her ensuing impeachment. Emphasizing women’s political empowerment rather than representation, the authors assess the effects of women executives to more directly impact female constituencies—how they can empower women by appointing them to government positions; make policies that advance women’s equality; and, through visibility, create greater support for female politicians despite rampant sexism.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil uses Rousseff’s presidency as a case study to focus on the ways she succeeded and failed in using her authority to empower women. The authors’ findings have implications throughout the world.


Dos Santos and Jalalzai’s impressive book breaks new ground by employing a women’s political empowerment approach to the election and governing of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff. Their careful and thorough analysis shows that Rousseff empowered women more than any of her male predecessors or successors. Their book, the most comprehensive analysis of Rousseff’s presidency to date, is a fascinating and accessible read. It makes a compelling case for Rousseff’s presidency as beneficial to women. It is a must read for gender scholars and Latin Americanists.”
Leslie Schwindt-Bayer, Professor of Political Science at Rice University, and editor of Gender and Representation in Latin America

“In Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil, dos Santos and Jalalzai have made an important contribution to our knowledge of women in high executive office. Their insightful, in-depth analysis, based on detailed empirical research conducted over nearly a decade, explores not only Dilma Rousseff’s career, from her pathway to office to her impeachment, but also analyzes to what extent Rousseff could empower women through appointment and policymaking, and as a symbol. This book will be enormously useful to all those studying gender politics in Brazil, Latin America, and more broadly.”
Georgina Waylen, Professor of Politics at the University of Manchester, and editor of Gender, Institutions, and Change in Bachelet's Chile

Table of Contents


1. From Guerrilheira to Presidenta: The Rise of Dilma Rousseff
2. Tchau, Querida: Empowerment, Disempowerment, and Misogyny in the Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff
3. Empowering Women through Appointment
4. Losing It All: Policymaking and Women’s Empowerment under Rousseff and Beyond
5. The First Presidenta: Empowering through Symbolizing


About the Author(s)

Pedro A. G. dos Santos is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota. He has two main areas of research in Brazilian politics: women’s representation in the legislative and executive branches, and the rise of evangelical politicians. He has published various book chapters as well as journal articles in Latin American Politics and Society, Politics & Gender, and Opinião Pública.

Farida Jalalzai is Associate Dean of Global Initiatives and Engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Virginia Tech University. She is the author of Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide and Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties? and coeditor of Measuring Women's Political Empowerment Across the Globe: Strategies, Challenges and Future Research.