Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!

It is a common assumption that the election of more women to parliament leads to a higher representation of women’s interests in the legislative arena. Because female members of parliament (MPs) share gender-specific experiences with the female population – so the argument goes – it is expected that they are more concerned with women-specific topics and that they also represent these issues more frequently in the parliamentary process compared with their male colleagues (Phillips 1995). On the one hand, this is corroborated by a number of studies showing that female legislators have different priorities than male MPs (Coffé and Reiser 2018), that they increasingly engage in plenary and committee debates on women-specific interests (Bäck, Debus and Müller 2014), and that they introduce more law initiatives on women-specific interests (Volden, Wiseman, and Wittmer 2018). On the other hand, however, many of these studies also reveal that the legislative behavior of female MPs does not always indicate strong commitments to the representation of women-specific interests. Besides the justified critique that women are not a homogenous group with a fixed set of interests, these results also spurred the conclusion that the link between descriptive and substantive representation of women seems to be more complicated than previously assumed and that we should focus on the analysis of the conditions and institutional settings under which female legislators are able to act on behalf of women.… Read More Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!

Can women save the environment? How female Members of the European Parliament make a difference on environmental legislation

“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.” Greta Thunberg (2019) puts it blatantly clear: our style of living is threatening our very existence; we are destroying the ground we live on – and if we do not radically change our conveniently arranged lives now, we won’t have the chance to turn the tide anymore. Living in a representative democracy, it is, however, not only us, the citizens, who have to act. Far-reaching decisions about environmental politics are taken by parliamentarians. Hence, we would probably want to know what delegates think about environmental issues and whether they act in accordance with these preferences.… Read More Can women save the environment? How female Members of the European Parliament make a difference on environmental legislation

Literature Review: Direct Democracy and Women’s Political Particiption

In a recently published article in the American Journal of Political Science, Jeong Hyun Kim shows us how direct democracy can enhance women’s political participation. She argues that direct decisions on policy initiatives increase, firstly, women’s perceived efficacy and, secondly, their political knowledge. Given that women were traditionally excluded from politics, direct democracy signals to women that all citizens, their opinions and preferences are valued during political debates, making it more likely that they also feel like their vote matters.… Read More Literature Review: Direct Democracy and Women’s Political Particiption