Free Articles

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the editors of Parliamentary Affairs have drawn together recent publications examining the representation of women in parliamentary democracies around the world. All papers are free to access until the end of 2014; please click on the links to download.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the editors of Parliamentary Affairs have drawn together recent publications examining the representation of women in parliamentary democracies around the world. All papers are free to access until the end of 2014; please click on the links to download.

Women’s Representation around the World: The Importance of Women’s Participation in the Workforce
Daniel Stockemer and Maeve Byrne

Strengthening Women’s Roles in Parliaments
Susan Markham

Cameron’s Problem with Women’: The Reporting and the Reality of Gender-Based Trends in Attitudes to the Conservatives, 2010–2011
Roger Mortimore, Gideon Skinner, and Tomasz Mludzinski

When Is Contagion Not Very Contagious? Dynamics of Women’s Political Representation in Scotland
Meryl Kenny and Fiona Mackay

Are Female Legislators Different? Exploring Sex Differences in German MPs’ Outside Interests
Benny Geys and Karsten Mause

Gendered Candidate Selection and the Representation of Women in Northern Ireland
Neil Matthews

Gender, European Integration and Candidate Recruitment: The European Parliament Elections in the New EU Member States
Cristina Chiva

Towards Parity Democracy? Gender in the 2012 French Legislative Elections
Rainbow Murray.

Attitudes Towards Women in Politics: Gender, Generation and Party Identification in Ireland
Yvonne Galligan and Kathleen Knight

‘Having it All?’ Women MPs and Motherhood in Germany and the UK
Joanna McKay

A new Editor’s Choice collection of IPSR articles on Gender and Political Institutions is now available (Open Access). It includes articles arising from feminist institutionalism – a full list is included below.

Fiona Mackay, Meryl Kenny, and Louise Chappell
New Institutionalism Through a Gender Lens: Towards a Feminist Institutionalism
Full Text (PDF)

Tahnya Barnett Donaghy
Applications of Gender Mainstreaming in Australia and Northern Ireland
Full Text (PDF)

Katherine Teghtsoonian and Louise Chappell
The Rise and Decline of Women’s Policy Machinery in British Columbia and New South Wales: A Cautionary Tale
Full Text (PDF)

Marian Sawer
What makes the substantive representation of women possible in a Westminster parliament? The story of RU486 in Australia
Full Text (PDF)

Johanna Kantola and Judith Squires
From state feminism to market feminism?
Full Text (PDF)

Farida Jalalzai and Mona Lena Krook
Beyond Hillary and Benazir: Women’s Political Leadership Worldwide
Full Text (PDF)

Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, co-edited by Corinne Lennox and Matthew Waites. Published by School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The book is available online or downloaded without charge, or purchased in print: Further information about dissemination events and links to chapter author websites can be found here:

STV and Women’s Representation in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly

    by Claire McGing

While macro-level research shows the benefits of proportional representation (PR) for women’s candidacy and seat-holding, PR systems vary in terms of institutional design, vote-seat distribution mechanisms, and the environment in which they are embedded. Feminists have increasingly come to accept that PR offers no fixed guarantees for women – systems must ‘fit’ with wider norms and practices that support, or even compel, female recruitment by political parties.

The (rarer) single transferable vote (STV), which has been used to elect the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly since its inception in 1998, proves interesting in light of gender. While STV shares many features with other PR systems, one of its most distinct characteristics is the exceptionally high degree of choice it allots the voter. The electorate votes for candidates in order of preference, within or across party lines, and the majority of seats are rewarded through the distribution of transfers. In Northern Ireland (like the Irish Republic), candidates are listed on the ballot alphabetically, not grouped by party affiliation (as in local elections in Scotland). As parties have no authority to decide the order of candidates, potential measures for sex outcomes in closed list PR, namely ‘zipped’ lists, are not implementable under STV. Moreover, while parties in numerous other systems can run women for ‘winnable’ seats, this concept is largely redundant in STV, as used in the North. Since larger parties tend to select multiple candidate tickets, it is impossible, at theoretically, to decipher which seats are ‘safe’ or not (except perhaps for incumbents, though experience from the Republic of Ireland shows even they’re not safe from a large-scale party collapse).

The Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly’s 108-members are returned from 18 six-seat constituencies (based on Westminster boundaries). After recent legislative changes, the number of MLAs will be reduced from 108 to 96 following the next election. While STV has ensured reasonable representation rates between unionist and nationalist communities, the Assembly is highly male-dominated, particularly when compared to the devolved houses of Scotland and Wales (both elected by AMS). Just 20 women MLAs (19%) were elected in the 2011 election, a record high. They comprised 17% of candidates, overall. Gender representation is not fixed, however, as considerable differences emerge between major parties in their propensity to put women forward, splitting pretty neatly by stances on the ‘constitutional question’ of the province. Generally, the unionist parties, the DUP and the UUP, have provided the fewest opportunities for women. The nationalist parties (Sinn Féin and the SDLP), on the other hand, are more open to female candidacy, while the small, cross-community Alliance Party (who won 8% of the vote in 2011) has the best record of all parties, by far.

So, is women’s underrepresentation linked to the mechanics of STV, or is inequality mainly attributable to voter preferences and selection processes? My (forthcoming) research suggests conservative party cultures, party competition, and incumbency provide the best explanation to this question, not the electoral system.

For one, Northern Irish voters do not discriminate by candidate sex, but use party affiliation, community-membership, and incumbency as their choice cues. In 2011, like previous contests, a strong relationship was evident between religion and voter preferences, while incumbent MLAs were considerably advantaged over challengers – over 90% were returned. Male and female incumbents were equal in their prospect of re-election. Yet, while non-incumbents face an uphill battle, the situation for such women bodes positively, as successful females were almost twice as likely as their male counterparts to have run as challengers (40% compared to 21%).

District magnitude (constituency size) is regularly considered the most explanatory variable for differences between PR systems and women’s seat-holding. The argument goes that multi-member districts give parties ‘room’ to ‘balance the slate’. Under electoral law in Northern Ireland, there are no legal limits as to the number of candidates a party can run per constituency. Nonetheless, large parties here have been slow to take advantage of six-seaters to assure balance, particularly the unionist side. In such a binary electoral environment, where the four main parties compete mainly within community blocs as opposed to outside of them, no seat is a guarantee and overly generous selections could cost Stormont representation. A cut in the number of MLAs may further exacerbate this situation.

Yet, as the case of the minor Alliance Party shows, internal party cultures undoubtedly play a highly significant, if not the most important role, in blocking equal opportunity. The party least likely to benefit from STV, and who thus selects the lowest number of multiple candidate tickets (just four Alliance constituency organisations out of 18 selected more than one candidate in 2011), runs the highest proportion of women candidates. This challenges the often-repeated orthodoxy that parties in a position to win multiple seats are willing to ‘experiment’ with women candidates.

Thus, attitudes within larger parties towards women need to change. There is, is essence, a ‘mismatch’ between voter preferences and selectorate decisions, and STV cannot be held to blame for this. In Northern Ireland, the suggestion of quotas remains highly controversial. While the system does not allow for outcome-based measures, there is nothing to stop parties introducing parity measures at selection level (indeed, the Irish Republic has recently legislated for candidate quotas). No party has yet taken advantage of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act, 2002, which allows for British parties to draw up all-women candidate shortlists for elections. While Sinn Féin and the SDLP rhetorically speak of equality, neither has written affirmative action measures for local selection into their constitution. Nonetheless, despite weaknesses, nationalist strategies for inclusivity are much more advanced than those of their unionist counterparts. DUP and UUP strategists emphasise the utmost importance of ‘meritocracy’, and do not support even modest positive action measures to improve the numbers of female contenders. Interestingly, while the Alliance Party has the best of all, it does not possess any internal guidelines or rules on female recruitment, a pattern worthy of further analyses. Women activists are better facilitated to seek selection than their unionist and nationalist sisters. Given the preference of Northern Irish women over the years to concentrate on more consensual, community-level politics as opposed to constitutional arguments and paramilitary activities, the ‘softer’ and bi-confessional nature of the Alliance Party may particularly appeal to those with electoral ambitions. Nonetheless, until the province’s main electoral players actively recruit more women candidates, the position of MLA is likely to remain predominately male.


Claire McGing, National University of Ireland, Maynooth,

This blog is based on McGing, C. (2013, forthcoming) ‘The single transferable vote and women’s representation in Ireland’, Irish Political Studies, Volume 28 (Issue 3).

Members of PSA Women and Politics group say ‘The problem is not with women but with the political parties’

Claire Annesley, Rosie Campbell, Sarah Childs, Catherine Durose, Elizabeth Evans, Francesca Gains, Meryl Kenny, Fiona Mackay, Rainbow Murray, Liz Richardson and other members of the UK Political Studies Association  (PSA) Women and Politics group.

This last week has seen the issue of women’s representation in Parliament hit the headlines, once again:  Samantha Cameron apparently lamented the lack of women in politics to her husband;  mid-week,  job-shares for MPs were put forward as a new way to increase the number of women in the UK Parliament and there have  been calls for quotas for the National Assembly for Wales. Over the weekend the Liberal Democrats launched two inquiries into the alleged sexual harassment of prospective women candidates and this Monday the 2013 Sex and Power Report was published, documenting the ‘shocking’ absence of women from all areas of public life. The findings of Sex and Power may be ‘shocking’ but they did not come as a shock to feminists. Enough is enough, it’s time that the Coalition Government stepped up and implemented the recommendations of the 2008-10 Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation…. (click link above for full article)  

Online Resources

Member blogs

Our members specialize in a wide-range of topics.  Please explore their blogs for more interesting topics and research.

Political commentary by Dr. Rainbow Murray (outgoing Women and Politics Convenor)

The Qualitative Election Study of Britain by Dr. Kristi Winters

Gender Politics at Edinburgh

Video links What About Women in London? Opens window with Quicktime Player

Recorded on 23 April 2012 in Old Theatre, Old Building.Speaker(s): Victoria Borwick, Jenny Jones, Ken Livingstone, Brian Paddick Chair: Ceri Goddard In the run up to the London mayoral elections, the Fawcett Society has invited the leading mayoral campaigns to debate what they will do for London’s four million women…This event will allow the audience to hear from the leading campaigns and ask: What About Women?

British Politics and women voters:

Leaked memo on support from women for the coalition government 13 September 2011 (The Guardian)  Document, marked ‘restricted-policy’, on how to get more support from women was written by officials in Number 10 and circulated to government departments


5 responses to “Free Articles

  1. Paul

    June 18, 2012 at 20:50

    Dr Evans & Dr Winters

    Through my years of just reading current & past history, antiquity, & news events, It never ceases to amaze me of the obvious. The feminine half of the human race has had to endure the never ending control & anger (& misdirected pride) from a certain masculine portion of the human race. Those of us men who do support women as equal partners, know that nurturing, listening & respecting women & their value is an aspect of human social evolution that should be a given.
    But I know we men haven’t gone far enough to stress it absolutely clear & necessary to those men with violence, control & anger problems with women that this will no longer be tolerated – now or into the future.

    Just basic reading into history points out the subjugation & lack of freedom for women occuring
    over hundreds of centuries. I am at a loss as to why, practically each day during this incredible length of time – & up to the present – there is a war, skimish or fighting somewhere in the world that includes violence, rape & death against women & children. Even during the recent times of
    ‘ civilized society ‘, second-class treatment was the norm, with no property rights & limited ability to be allowed to express opinions, much less vote in certain societies. And no less forced into prostitution, by threat or to somehow support oneself (I understand there was a staggering number of abortions in the 1890s).

    Here in the States, I’ve seen more news recently re the encouragement of women to run for political office – not as political ideology absolutists, but to work together to face mounting problems, compromising reasonably to get things done. (In the 2008 campaign, an elderly man came out from primary voting & muttered to the press ” I think it’s time to let women in there & set
    things right. The men sure can’t do it “).

    Mistreatment & violence century after century. And misguided institutions run by men ignoring women’s basic human rights. Even physicians (up until the last two decades) relying their medical research on the male body alone. And, today, it was reported a girl was beheaded by her father due to her ‘ lifestyle ‘.

    But there are men that will do literally anything to respect, love, nurture & be there for women no matter what the human cost.

    Doing the expected, right things for women will take more time than we’d like.

    But the steps you’re taking encourage those of us that know something must be done in order to have a secure future for women around the world . . .

    • psawomenpolitics

      June 20, 2012 at 10:58

      Dear Paul, thank you for the kind words and encouraging post.

  2. Lateral Love Australia

    October 17, 2012 at 14:11

    We would like to sincerely thank you for following Lateral Love Australia. Our primary aim is to get people talking about Lateral Violence to enable contemplation about the opposite which is Lateral Love; to encourage thoughts on how we can all go about instilling this into the lives of our children and loved ones so that they will be able to identify Lateral Violence and Racism when they are confronted by it by having in place some strategies and coping mechanisms to repel these incidents from a position of knowledge and cultural strength. In doing so we hope to encourage and nurture our children and grandchildren, the future leaders of this world away from the deadly depths of despair that we currently face particularly here in Australia within our Aboriginal and Islander communities in regard to child and youth suicide. So once again, thank you! We are humbled by your follow and enriched through your support. Yours in Unity through Lateral Love & Spirit of Care for all Humankind ~ Brian, Nicola and The Lateral Love Team 2012

  3. Blaine Shranka

    December 12, 2012 at 21:34

    Hello there,

    With the elections having passed and the ongoing implementation of healthcare reform, women’s access to contraception is all over the news. Setting the politics aside, did you know that many unplanned pregnancies – and abortions – are the result of not using birth control or using it incorrectly?

    Have a look at our recent Everyday Health infogram that uses visualizes a report out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis:

    We encourage you to share this on, and would be happy to give you a Follow Friday shout out to our 100,000+ Twitter fans.

    Let me know if you would like me to send over the attachment!


  4. The Savvy Senorita

    February 20, 2013 at 17:15

    Hi, I have nominated you for ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’. Your site is just that; inspiring and a wealth of information. I enjoy reading your posts and feel you deserve to be recognised as an inspiration. Thanks Bex
    If you are interested in the nomination then please look at the link to my post to explain the rules: Award Nomination For You


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