This paper adopts an upside-down approach to women’s political empowerment. While the number of women we need to get into legislatures has often assumed centre stage, this paper takes women’s pathways as its starting point. In so doing, it challenges the narrow conception of women’s political engagement as occupying formal positions and seeks to present a more nuanced perspective on the spaces, relationships and ways of working that influence power hierarchies and dynamics. The paper’s aims are two-fold. First, through a multi-country case study, the paper explores the possibilities and limitations of mainstream approaches such as quotas to strengthening women’s access to political power. Second, it seeks to broaden the debate by practically engaging with the question of how we can support women’s political leadership in ways that speak to women’s realities in very concrete ways.