Gender and Political Representation: The Causes and Consequences of a Centennial of Underrepresentation of Women in Politics Representation: Journal of Representative Democracy


In 2018, at least twelve countries – Austria, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are celebrating a centennial of women’s suffrage. Compared to a hundred years ago, women today enjoy more political rights and higher levels of representation in most countries around the world. Yet, there is still a long way to parity when it comes to women’s and men’s descriptive representation: on average, more than 75% of elected representatives in national legislatures across the world are men (IPU 2018). To shed some light to the causes and consequences of the underrepresentation of women in the political arena, Representation’s editorial team has collated a virtual special issue of a selection of articles previously published in Representation.

The first part of the special issue examines the difference women bring to the political arena by setting off with Michael Saward’s (2008) note discussing the basic underlying question of ‘What does it mean for one person or group to represent another?’. The following contributions by Celis et al. (2008), Wang (2014), Allik (2016), and Waikeung (2018) investigate the link between descriptive and substantive representation. The second set of articles of the virtual special issue focus on explaining why some legislatures have more women representatives than others. McAllister and Studlar (2002) evaluate the impact of electoral system design on women’s representation, while Dahlerup (2007), Childs (2013), and Wauters et al. (2014) discuss the effectiveness of candidate quotas and other affirmative measures in increasing the number of women in parliaments. The final two contributions – Gauja and Cross (2015) and McGregor et al. (2017) – focus on how political parties and voters affect women’s chances for winning political office.

We hope that this virtual special issue helps you celebrate all the centennial celebrations of women’s suffrage. The papers in this virtual special issue will be free to access from 19/03/2018 to 30/09/2018.

What do women bring to the political arena?

Why are there more women in some legislatures than others?