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Gender and Select Committee Elections in the British House of Commons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2012

Diana Z. O'Brien
University of Southern California


While significant attention has been dedicated to explaining women's election to office, fewer studies have assessed female politicians' access to positions of power within legislatures. This latter topic became particularly salient in the British House of Commons following the 2010 general election, when recently adopted reforms introduced intracameral elections for select committee members and chairs. This article outlines three hypotheses concerning the influence of candidate sex on election outcomes: a gender bias against female candidates, a gender advantage favoring female candidates, and gender-neutral outcomes. Drawing on two original data sets, the results not only fail to support the gender-bias hypothesis but also demonstrate that women were advantaged in the interparty elections for committee chairs. These findings offer new insights into both the position of female legislators in the UK Parliament and gender and the allocation of power within national assemblies more generally.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2012

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