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In the Company of Men: Gender and Legislative Activity in the European Parliament

European Politics
Gender
Parliaments
Representation
Women
Gail McElroy
Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin
Gail McElroy
Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin

Abstract

In this paper we examine the legislative entrepreneurship of male and female representatives and find that female representatives are more productive than their male counterparts in the European Parliament. We demonstrate that barriers to entry help to explain the productivity of women politicians once they arrive in a legislature. Female candidates confront greater hurdles in the selection process and as such there is a 'quality gap' amongst male and female representatives. Using data from the three most recent terms of the European Parliament (1999-2014), we offer a novel causal story whereby the national context provides a key, conditioning factor that shapes the quality of legislators and – hence – their actions within the EP. In effect, we argue that sex based discrimination in selection has consequences for the levels of legislative activity of women legislators, and where the barriers to entry are highest the women elected are most productive. The nature of elections to the European Parliament provides a unique opportunity to test the impact of the degree of sex based selection discrimination on legislative performance, given Members of the European Parliament are elected from a very diverse set of countries in the European Union. In this paper we posit that women outperform men in legislative office in general, as they have greater hurdles to overcome in getting selected and this gives rise to a quality gap. We further argue that where sex based discrimination in selection is most acute, the quality gap is starker and this leads to even greater disparities between men and women legislators.