Devolution as a Laboratory for Gender Mainstreaming

By:
Prof. Laura McAllister,
Diana Silvia Stirbu
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Devolution represents one of the most important political changes in the UK. Since 1997, the process of devolution has impacted on many aspects of UK's political and administrative life. At a structural level, devolution implies dynamic institution building and the creation of a new focus in intergovernmental relations. At a functional level, devolution poses some challenges as the devolved structures have adopted new practices that deviate somewhat from the traditional political, administrative and constitutional practices. At a symbolic level, devolution has initiated a new value based political lexicon that promotes openness, accountability and inclusiveness as guiding principles for the operation of the new devolved institutions.

One of devolution's main goals was to create a more participatory and inclusive style of politics. In Wales especially, the creation of the National Assembly provided an important context for change and equality campaigns ensured a prominent position for equality on the political agenda. Therefore, since 1997, Wales has witnessed a dramatic shift in the gender balance of political power. In 2003 equal numbers of women and men were elected to the National Assembly in the context of the overt promotion of new, inclusive democratic values.

This paper has three aims: firstly, it explores descriptive and substantive representation within the National Assembly considering structural and functional aspects such as political parties’ strategies for increasing women representation and specific actions taken to engender the policy making process. Secondly, it assesses the extent of gender mainstreaming in the National Assembly for Wales at a more symbolic level, seeking to evaluate the impact of equal representation on its day to day operation: the degree of consultation with civic society women’s groups, the mode of political debate in Assembly proceedings, etc. Finally, the article draws transferable lessons from Cardiff with regards to gender mainstreaming in political and administrative life.


Keywords: Devolution, Inclussiveness, Gender Mainstreaming, Equality, Wales
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Opportunities for Gender Innovations in a New Political Space


Prof. Laura McAllister

MPA Programme Director, Faculty of Social and Environmental Studies
Management School, University of Liverpool

Liverpool, England, UK


Diana Silvia Stirbu

PhD Student, Faculty of Social and Environmental Studies
Management School, University of Liverpool

Liverpool, England, UK


Ref: I06P0207