The Political Power of Legislatures and the Representation of Women

There are many papers that examine the reasons why there are more women in some legislatures than in others. Three kinds of mechanisms are usually identified: cultural reasons — as I highlighted in my ESR paper –, socio-economic reasons, and electoral reasons — principally PR systems. I was rather excited to see a recent paper by Leslie Schwindt-Bayer and Peverill Squire that highlights a new mechanism: the political power of legislatures.

While we could include the role of legislative power under the heading institutions alongside electoral rules, the approach is rooted in the insight that the characteristics of legislatures (as institutions) can influence the election of women into positions of power. Seen this way, the political power of legislatures (measured using the Parliamentary Powers Index) is just one aspect alongside other formal and informal rules and legislative norms.

Ruedin, Didier. 2012. “The Representation of Women in National Parliaments: A Cross-National Comparison.” European Sociological Review 28 (1): 96–109. doi:10.1093/esr/jcq050.

Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie, and Peverill Squire. 2014. “Legislative Power and Women’s Representation.” Politics & Gender 10 (04): 622–58. doi:10.1017/S1743923X14000440.

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