Gender in the Jihad

Characteristics and outcomes among women and men involved in jihadist-inspired terrorism

Authored by: Christine Shahan Brugh, Sarah L. Desmarais, Joseph Simons-Rudolph, and Samantha A. Zottola

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Violent Extremism
Region: No Region
Year: 2019
Citation: Brugh, C. S., Desmarais, S. L., Simons-Rudolph, J., & Zottola, S. A. Gender in the jihad: Characteristics and outcomes among women and men involved in jihadist-inspired terrorism. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management. 2019.

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There has been relatively limited empirical investigation of the characteristics and activities of women involved in jihadism-inspired terrorism. To address this knowledge gap, the researchers describe demographic characteristics, criminal history, organizational involvement, plot involvement, and foreign fighting of 405 women involved in jihadism-inspired terrorism. They also perform comparative analyses with a subgroup of women (n = 272) matched to a sample of male terrorists (n = 266). Women involved in jihadism-inspired terrorism were diverse in their ethnicities and countries of citizenship; the majority were legal, native residents of their countries. Most had completed at least high school; about half had no recent employment. Women rarely had criminal histories. Most women were linked to at least one terrorist organization, but were not often involved in plots. About half of the women attempted to engage in foreign fighting. Compared to men, women were more often born in 1990 or later, more likely to have no recent profession, and had significantly fewer crimes prior to radicalization. They found no differences on education or criminal activity after radicalization. Compared to men, women were more often associated with at least one organization and less likely to be involved in plots. Women were more likely to attempt foreign fighting at least once and were more often successful on their first attempt. They did not find differences on age of radicalization or age of first foreign fighting attempt. Implications for research, policy, and practice include the need for gender-informed theories of radicalization, threat assessment, and other counterterrorism strategies.