Increasing numbers of women have gained entry into the arena of representative politics in recent times. Yet the extent to which shifts in the sex ratio within formal democratic spaces translates into political influence, and into gains in policies that redress gendered inequities and inequalities remains uncertain. At the same time, a plethora of new democratic spaces have been created - whether through the promotion of 'civil society organizations' or the institutionalization of participatory governance mechanisms - which hold the prospect of democratizing other political spaces beyond those of formal politics. This study examines factors that constrain and enable women's political effectiveness in these different democratic arenas. We suggest that 'engendering democracy' by adding women or multiplying democratic spaces is necessary but not sufficient to address historically and culturally embedded forms of disadvantage that have been the focus for feminist politics. We suggest that an important, but neglected, determinant of political effectiveness is women's political apprenticeship - their experiences in political parties, civil society associations and the informal arenas in which political skills are learned and constituencies built. Enhancing the democratizing potential of women's political participation calls, we argue, for democratizing democracy itself: building new pathways into politics, fostering political learning and creating new forms of articulation across and beyond existing democratic spaces.