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Cover Foundations of European Politics

7. Representation  

This chapter addresses the various concepts of political representation, such as substantive, descriptive, and symbolic. It then examines which institutions foster different types of representation. It presents two different visions of democracy: proportional and majoritarian. It considers what they imply for congruence and responsiveness. The chapter delves deeper into descriptive representation by looking at the representation of women across legislatures. When considering symbolic representation it looks at action taken by members of parliament. The chapter asks the basic question: to what extent, and in what ways, does a political system represent its citizens?


Cover Exploring Parliament

22. Women in the House of Commons  

Rosie Campbell, Sarah Childs, and Elizabeth Hunt

This chapter examines the progress of women's participation and representation in the House of Commons. It first considers women's descriptive representation in the House of Commons over the last century, with emphasis on the differences in the proportion of women Members of Parliament (MPs) elected by the main political parties. It explains improvements in the numbers of women MPs in the last decade or so, together with the party asymmetry, by reference to the supply and demand model of political recruitment. It then reviews arguments for women's equal participation in politics, taking into account how women's descriptive representation intersects with symbolic and substantive representation. It also discusses resistance to the claim that women's representation matters and concludes with an analysis of the masculinized nature of the political institution that women MPs inhabit, along with the recommendations made in the 2016 The Good Parliament report.