Feminizing political parties: Women’s party member organizations within European parliamentary parties

Sarah L. Childs*, Miki Caul Kittilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Party member women’s organizations were early features of party development. While some contemporary studies maintain these are important sites for the substantive representation of women, there is also a claim that they are in decline. Our primary purpose here is to establish the existence of party member women’s organizations – as one test of the first dimension of party feminization: the inclusion of women. We draw on new survey data of 17 European countries provided by Scarrow, Poguntke and Webb. We establish that almost half have a party member women’s organization. The new data also permits analysis of relationships between party member women’s organization and gender quotas for the top party leadership body (National Executive Committee (NEC)), women’s presence among the party leadership and candidate quota rules. Together we see these (i) as a means to establish whether women are marginalized within the party, thereby limiting descriptive representation and (ii) as surrogate measures for women’s substantive representation. We importantly find that the presence of a party member women’s organization does not come at the cost of women’s presence on the NEC. In the final section, we turn our attention to building a new comparative research agenda that more fully addresses substantive representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-608
Number of pages11
JournalParty Politics
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • European parties
  • feminization
  • gender
  • gender quotas
  • party women’s organizations


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