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Politics

Promoting gender equality in politics and policy

Studies of women’s under-representation in politics and the impact of economic austerity on women have shaped policy and informed public debate.

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Our examination of gender equality in government highlights the barriers that exist to promoting gender equality policy.

Our research has supported new initiatives to promote gender equality in politics. In particular, our evidence on the under-representation of women in politics has been addressed through legislation which handed local authorities a duty to promote representative diversity in local government.

Our research explores how to address the under-representation of women in political life and how the absence of women can affect policy.

The work has provided key evidence and justification for new legislation and recommendations to promote gender equality in the political sphere:

  • The 'Councillors Commission', chaired by Dame Jane Roberts, took up our recommendations on how to increase diversity in local government, stating that “… in my view, robust research and evidence of this nature is crucial in order to inform the policy debate on local government and democracy more widely”.
  • The Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act (2009) provided local authorities with a duty to increase representative diversity in local government.

Informing policy

Research undertaken for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was used in their submissions to the Office for Disability Issues, the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and in the influential ‘Sex and Power’ report (2013).

Prof Annesley is on the management committee of the Women’s Budget Group (WBG) and has worked with it to assess the impact of austerity on gender equality. She has been invited to present research to the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party and to members of the Shadow Equalities Team.

  • One shadow minister states her briefings “have proved very valuable in enabling women politicians to make an evidenced case for more gender-sensitive policy”.
  • Research on gendered budgets has informed the argument that Equalities Impact Assessments should accompany all government budgets and spending reviews.

Key quote

"Recommendations to increase the amount of women in local government taken up by the Councillors Commission chaired by Dame Jane Roberts"

Our research

The Evaluating Local Governance (ELG) research team analysed constitutional reform in local government and reviewed diversity in five best performing councils. The team also studied diversity in national institutions and explored the relationship between common routes into politics and the under-representation of groups protected by the Equality Act (2010).

Our examination of gender equality in government highlights the barriers that exist to promoting gender equality policy. Our research found that in periods of recession, gender equality tends only to be pursued as a result of pressures from ‘outside’ (eg the European Union).

Recent research has critically assessed how the economic approach taken by the Coalition Government affects men and women’s incomes, jobs and access to public services in different ways.

Key people

Further information