Women, Representation, and Electoral Systems


  • Jessica Ireland


This project assesses the gendered implications of Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system and considers alternatives (alternative voting, proportional representation, and mixed-member representation) for gender representation. Electoral systems directly impact representation in parliament by determining which votes count and by structuring the kinds of issues that are included on the political agenda. Much of the research on women’s representation in government distinguishes between descriptive representation (the number of women elected to office) and substantive representation (the representation of women’s interests on the political agenda). Because the links between descriptive and substantive representation are contested, and because substantive representation is a broad concept, this study argues that substantive representation of women should be conceptualized as the actualization of feminist political goals, one of which is the descriptive representation of women in parliament. The regional focus of majoritarian systems diminishes the relevance of cross-regional political goals, limiting opportunities for discussion of feminist priorities. Additionally, proportional representation consistently correlates with higher numbers of women in office. While many have argued that higher numbers of women in office will lead to improved representation of women’s interests, this study suggests that descriptive and substantive representation of women should be considered as distinct feminist initiatives, and that a proportional representation system is effective for both.




How to Cite

Ireland, J. (2022). Women, Representation, and Electoral Systems. Revue YOUR Review (York Online Undergraduate Research), 7. Retrieved from https://yourreview.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/yourreview/article/view/40636



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