Different Paths, Different Perspectives? An Examination of Whether Men's and Women's Parliamentary Career Trajectories Translate into Policy Outcomes in France
24 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 26 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
One of the central questions when considering issues of descriptive and substantive representation is the question of whether who a parliamentarian is will affect what they do. Within this lie several related questions. Are women, as a category, more likely to represent “women’s issues” (however defined) than men? Do prior qualifications and experience – so often used as a justification for the exclusion of women - affect the effectiveness of a politician? Do women politicians try so hard to resemble male elites that they end up having more in common with men politicians than with women constituents? Can women MPs ever meet the competing demands of equality (being as good as their male counterparts) and difference (offering political renewal and enhanced substantive representation of women)?
This paper seeks to explore all of these themes by comparing the descriptive characteristics of French deputies with their behaviour in parliament. The paper firstly compares the age, political experience and professional qualifications of men and women elected to the French National Assembly in 2002 and in 2007 (with the 2007 election being the first to feel the impact of the ‘parity’ gender quota). Then the paper considers how the different career trajectories of politicians translate into different policy outcomes by looking at the work conducted by French deputies. This includes both the type of parliamentary work (parliamentary questions, bill proposals, reports and so on) and the policy area. The paper considers whether there is any evidence that greater levels of ‘preparedness’ for office prior to election influence the effectiveness and productivity of deputies once elected. The paper also asks whether women are more likely than men to focus on policy areas of particular relevance to women constituents. In so doing, the paper will explore the theme of whether increasing women’s presence through a quota has led to a decline in the quality of parliamentarians, or whether it has enhanced representation, especially for women.
Keywords: France, gender, women, elections, parliaments, representation, parity, quotas
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