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Gendered experiences, institutions, leadership and representation: A feminist institutionalist analysis of Welsh local government

Hibbs, Leah 2022. Gendered experiences, institutions, leadership and representation: A feminist institutionalist analysis of Welsh local government. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis adopted a feminist institutionalist lens to explore women’s political representation in Welsh local government. It examined the gendered experiences of women local councillors and how these were affected by contexts, cultures, and norms. Combining feminist institutionalist analysis with political representation theory the thesis assessed whether previously-identified issues shaping women’s substantive representation at the national level played out similarly in local governance. This thesis’ original contribution was made through attending to a lacuna in current academic literature, presenting a theoretically informed study of the gendered experiences of local councillors in Wales, the gendered contexts and (in)equality issues in Welsh local-level political institutions, and the impact of formal and informal institutional contexts on women’s political representation and participation. The qualitative study involved a multiple case-study design with four local councils. Nineteen semi-structured, ‘elite’ interviews were conducted with female councillors from a range of political parties, council roles, and durations in office. The key research findings are divided into four sections – 1) gendered (s)elections, 2) institutions, 3) representation, and 4) leadership. Interviewees were motivated to stand for election by community concerns, often encouraged by political peers, and had mixed views on positive action techniques. Welsh local councils have written and unwritten gendered rules which created considerable barriers to women facing the ‘triple duty’ of political, personal, and professional responsibilities. Informal norms inside and outside of local councils contributed to an environment with continued sexism and gendered discrimination. Women’s interests were reflected through women-specific policies championed by women critical actors, but women’s substantive representation was not guaranteed by achieving critical mass, and was limited by political partisanship, reticence towards cross-party working, and by austerity. Women faced a ‘labyrinth to leadership’, but once at the top were crucial for substantive representation, encouraging other women into seniority, and initiating the re-gendering of their institutions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 January 2023
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2023 15:48

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