This article presents evidence from 18 European countries showing that where levels of corruption are high, the proportion of women elected is low. We hypothesize that corruption indicates the presence of ‘shadowy arrangements’ that benefit the already privileged and pose a direct obstacle to women when male-dominated networks influence political parties’ candidate selection. There is also an indirect signal effect derived from citizen’s experiences with a broad range of government authorities. The article uses data that are more fine-grained than usual in this literature. We conduct an empirical test on a new dataset on locally elected councilors in 167 regions in Europe. Using a novel measure of regional quality of government and corruption we perform a multi-level analysis with several regional- and national-level controls. This study provides a unique picture of the proportion of women in locally elected assemblies throughout Europe and a new way of understanding the variations found.