The island states of the Pacific region are at the bottom of the international league table for the representation of women in parliament. Despite considerable efforts by international agencies and donor governments and by women of the region, progress on increasing representation is extraordinarily slow. Three major explanations for these low levels of representation can be identified. The most common explanation relates to cultural beliefs, while a second account locates the problem in women's socio-economic status. The third explanation argues that there are obstacles for women in the electoral and parliamentary institutions that warrant the introduction of legislated minimum representation of women. Each of these explanations contributes value to our understanding but each also has significant deficiencies, which are identified in the article.