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Bird Karen, Chair of the Department of Political Science | Professor

photo of Karen Bird

Karen Bird

Chair of the Department of Political Science | Professor

Department of Political Science

Area(s) of Interest:


Karen Bird is Professor of Political Science, specializing in comparative politics. Her work focuses on ethnic and gender diversity, intersectionality, and the political representation of women, indigenous groups, and immigrant-origin and ethnic minorities in parliaments around the world.

Karen is Principal Investigator, with Dr. Netina Tan, on a new 5-year SSHRC funded research project on Electoral Ethnic Quotas and the Politics of Representation. This research will build new knowledge about variations in ethnic quota designs to guarantee political representation of indigenous and ethnic minority groups. The project aims to understand how ethnic quota systems relate to meaningful inclusion, modes of political representation, patterns of electoral competition, and chains of political responsiveness and accountability. Our first event is an international workshop, "Comparing Mechanisms for Substantive Representation of Ethnic Minorities and Indigenous Peoples," to be held at McMaster, Dec. 6-8, 2018.

She is also is a co-investigator on The Impact of Digital Technology on First Nations Participation and Governance, a collaborative partnership investigating the use and impact of Internet voting in First Nations communities in Ontario. She is collaborating on the Toronto Election Study, where she is examining who votes for women and racialized candidates in a non-partisan municipal context. She also sits on the Advisory Board for the PATHWAYS Project, a cooperative international endeavor on the political representation of citizens of immigrant origin in seven European democracies. Her newest project is an examination of electoral quotas and reserved seats for indigenous and ethnic groups in 30 countries around the world.

Her work on these topics appears most recently in the Canadian Journal of Political Science; Politics, Groups and Identities; theInternational Political Science Review; as well as numerous edited volumes. She is co-editor, with Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas Wüst, of The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies(Routledge 2011). 

Professor Bird’s work has been funded by several grants including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada), the National Science Foundation (US), and the Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques (France).

She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Representation & Electoral Systems Section, American Political Science Association. Professor Bird is on research leave from January through June 2016, during which time she will be a visiting fellow with the Electoral Integrity Project, Harvard University and University of Sydney.

Research Interests

Political Representation
Elections and Electoral Systems
Women and Ethnic Minorities
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

Awards and Distinctions

Winner of the Canadian Political Science Association Jill Vickers Prize (2015), best conference paper on gender and politics, for “Challenges to Intersectional Inclusion: Institutional Dynamics of Ethnic Quotas and their Impact on Ethnic Minority Women.”

Winner of the International Political Science Association Wilma Rule Award (2000),  best conference paper on gender and politics, for “Gender Parity and the Political Representation of Women in France.”

In the news

Dr. Bird was recently cited in a Maclean’s article on gender parity in politics  

See Karen Bird's article in The Hamilton Spectator, on gender and ethnic diversity in the new Liberal cabinet:


  • Ph.D University of Minnesota (1997)
  • B.A. Wilfrid Laurier University (1988)


Research Assistantship Opportunities

Graduate students interested in quantitative and qualitative research methods; political representation of women, indigenous and ethnic minorities; and comparative politics should contact me about research opportunities. Please send a statement of your research interests to

Graduate Supervision

I am happy to supervise students working on the political representation of women, indigenous and ethnic minorities, gender and ethnic quotas, elections and electoral systems, citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, in Canada or other countries.

Courses regularly taught


3G03 – Ethnicity and Multiculturalism: Political Theory and Practice

3V03 – Women and Politics: Comparative and Global Perspectives


740 – Theories of Comparative Politics

746 – The Politics of Immigration in Comparative Perspective

748 – Democracy and Diversity: Understanding Ethnic Politics

796 – Research Design and Methods


Sample Publications

Karen Bird, Samantha Jackson, Michael McGregor, Aaron A. Moore and Laura B. Stephenson. 2016. “Sex (and Ethnicity) in the City: Affinity Voting in the 2014 Toronto Mayoral Election.”Canadian Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming.

Karen Bird. 2016. “Understanding the Local Diversity Gap: Supply and Demand of Visible Minority Candidates in Ontario Municipal Politics.” The Political Immigrant: A Comparative Portrait, Antoine Bilodeau, ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp 180-200.

Karen Bird. 2015. “Intersections of Exclusion: The Institutional Dynamics of Combined Gender and Ethnic Quota Systems.” Politics, Groups and Identities, 4:2, pp 284-306. DOI:

Karen Bird. 2015. “‘We are Not an Ethnic Vote!’ Representational Perspectives of Minorities in the Greater Toronto Area.” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 48: 2, pp. 249-279. DOI:

Karen Bird. 2014. “Ethnic Quotas and Ethnic Representation Worldwide." International Political Science Review, 35: 1, pp. 12-16.DOI:  

Karen Bird and Samantha Jackson. 2014. “The Women & Diversity EXCLerator Project: Women in Executive and Community Leadership in Hamilton and Halton.” Report to the YWCA Hamilton (43 pp). Online at:

Karen Bird and Andrea Rowe. 2013. “Women, Feminism and the Harper Conservatives.” Conservatism in Canada, Jim Farney and David Rayside, eds. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 165-83.

Karen Bird. 2012. “Towards an Integrated Model of Minority Representation: Perspectives from Canada.” Politics & Gender 8: 4, pp. 508-512.

Karen Bird and Jessica Merolli. 2012. “Diversity and Inclusion in the City of Hamilton. Municipal Policy Making within Multi-level Governance Arrangements.” Immigration, Integration and Inclusion in Ontario Cities. Caroline Andrew, John Biles, Myer Burstein, Victoria M. Esses and Erin Tolley, eds. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 225-51.

Karen Bird. 2011. “Patterns of Substantive Representation among Visible Minority MPs: Evidence from Canada’s House of Commons.” The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies.Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld, Andreas Wüst, eds. London: Routledge, pp. 207-229.

Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas Wüst, eds. 2011. The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies. London: Routledge. 

Karen Bird. 2005. “The Political Representation of Visible Minorities in Electoral Democracies: A Comparison of France, Denmark and Canada.” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 11: 4, pp. 425-465.

Karen Bird. 2003. “Who are the Women? Where are the Women? And what Difference can they Make? The Effects of Gender Parity in French Municipal Elections.” French Politics, 1:1, pp. 5-38.  

Karen Bird. 2002. “Valeurs démocratiques et propos à caractère raciste en France et aux Etats‑Unis.” La Revue internationale de politique comparé,  9: 3, pp. 477-504.

Karen Bird. 2002. “Does Parity Work? Results from French Elections.” Feminist Studies, 28: 3, pp. 691-698.

Karen Bird. 2001. “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Parité… and Diversité ? The Difficult Question of Ethnic Difference in the French Parity Debate.” Contemporary French Civilization 25: 2, pp. 271-292.

Karen Bird. 2001. “L’impossible réglementation des propos à caractère raciste aux Etats-Unis.” La Revue française de droit constitutionnel, 46, pp. 265-287.

Karen Bird. 2000. “Racist Speech or Free Speech? A Comparison of the Law in France and the United States.” Comparative Politics, 32: 4, pp. 399-418.