Measuring gender representation in the political process

Friday, November 14, 2014 - 00:00

Women’s representation in political and economic decision-making was the primary theme of a conference held at Maynooth University this week.  

The Gender Representation and Decision-making: Challenges and Opportunities conference draws on the work of female scholars from across faculties and disciplines to reflect on the issues surrounding gender representation and participation in decision-making in formal politics, reproductive rights, civil society, media and economics. The contributors include experts from across myriad fields that address factors influencing the gendered nature of representation and the implications of decision-making that result from such factors.

Keynote speaker Professor Karen Celis of the Free University of Brussels questioned the orthodox means by which political science tends to measure gender representation. She suggested that society needs to “re-think what we mean when we refer to women as a group - are we just counting white, heterosexual, highly educated women?”

She argued that “we have to go back to the notion of citizen, and listen carefully to how citizens define themselves as a group and define their interests. Once you get a better sense of what is at stake for different groups in the polity, then you can start counting whether these groups feel represented or not.” 

In hosting the conference Maynooth University reaffirms its explicit commitment to support gender equality initiatives in higher education. The University has established a senior managerial committee to consider policy and practice on gender equality which has resulted in the appointment of a dedicated equality officer, Ashley O’Donoghue. Ms O’Donoghue’s remit includes engaging with the Athena Swan Charter, which promotes measures to combat the underrepresentation of women in academia and to support their career advancement.

Maynooth University also has initiated a scheme to provide funding for faculty to enhance their research profiles in instances where they have experienced a hiatus in research output due to caring or parental responsibilities.

Gender Representation and Decision-making: Challenges and Opportunities was organised by the Department of Sociology in conjunction with the Faculty of Social Sciences. For more information on Maynooth University’s equality initiatives contact Human Resources.

Spakers at the Gender and Representation Conference

The image left shows Professor Rowena Pecchenino and Dr. Pauline Cullen, both Maynooth University, and keynote speaker Professor Karen Celis (Free University of Brussels).