Female Legislative Representation and the Electoral System

DOI10.1111/j.1467-9256.1981.tb00054.x
Date01 November 1981
Published date01 November 1981
Cohen
on
Nozick:
Wilt
Chamberlain's Alleged
!?heat
to
Freedom
21
Notes
1.
Erkenntnis, Vol.
11,
No.
1
(May,
1977),
pp.5-23. Page numbers in parentheses
2,
The relevant passage occurs in Cohen's essay, 'Capitalism, Freedom, and the
in the text refer to this article.
Proletariat',. in Aian Ryan (ed.), The Idea of Freedom: Essays in Honour
of
Isaiah Berlin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p.24. Cohen rests his
contention that 'the proletariat is an imprisoned class' on an assumption
of solidarity. Nevertheless, 'each remains free to leave'. This seems an
odd approach
to
defining imprisonment- Isn't the solidarity voluntary?
If
it
is, in what way is the proletariat forced?
-0-000-0-
FEMALE LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATION
AND
THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM
FRANCIS
G.
CASTLES
Everywhere women are substantially underrepresented in national legislatures
and
so
have a markedly reduced opportunity
flor
recruitment into governmental
elites. In only a minority of liberal democratic states
is
female representation
as high as
10
per cent and there are few signs of any increasing curve of repre-
sentation
with
length
of
time since the introduction of female suffrage (Putnam,
1976,
p.33). Under such circumstances,
it
is
hardly surprising
if
critics have
concentrated much of their attention on general cultural and structural explana-
tions of the failure
of
women to attain a full role in democratic political sys-
tems. Nevertheless, there has always been a degree of curiosity about the extent
of cross-national variation
in
female represlentation.
As
early as 1926, Alzada
Comstock was asking in the pages
of
the
-
APSR:
'What is
it
about the barren north
(of Scandinavia) which stimulates women
to
go into law, medicine and politics?
And what
is
there about blue Mediterranean skies which keeps them out of the pro-
fessions and out of politics?' (Comstock, 1926, p.379). Her answer pointed impli-
citly to cultural differences as the reason, but more recent attempts to map out
and explain variation
in
women's legislative presence (see Krauss,
1974;
Newland,
1975;
Vallance,
1979;
Kohn, 1980; Bogdanor,
1981;
Lovenduski and Hills,
1981)
have tended
to
prefer instit~tional explanations and, in particular, explanations
in terms of the impact
of
specific types
of
electoral system.
area. First,
it
is clear that the exact extent
of
female representation is a
consequence
of
an extremely complex interaction
of
cultural, structural and insti-
tutional factors
in
a particular national context, and for this reason many studies
have, understandably, preferred country-by-country analysis to a more cross-
national approach. Second, even the simplest data on female representation
is
quite hard to come by, since reference works
-
whether national or international
-
are singularly unhelpful in categorising legislative membership by gender. Third,
insofar as our focus of interest is in the impact of electoral systems, the num-
ber of cases which can be categorised in a particular way is often very small,
which means that conclusions must be very tentative. When Japan
is
the only demo-
cratic country using the Single Non-Transferable Vote
(SNTV),it
is
impossible to
distinguish the effects of that electoral system from other cultural and struc-
tural peculiarities of the Japanese situation. Despite these difficulties some
cross-national analysis
is
possible using broad distinctions between types
of
electoral system and utilising the largest possible number of cases for which
recent information is procurable.
There are a number of serious difficulties which confront research in this

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