Discourses of differentiation: gender and participation in the devolved parliaments of the UK

Shaw, Sylvia (2012) Discourses of differentiation: gender and participation in the devolved parliaments of the UK. In: The Political Science Association (PSA) Women and Politics Bi-annual Conference 2012, 'Making a Difference for Women', 18th February 2012, University of Bristol and the West of England, Bristol. . [Conference or Workshop Item]


This paper presents some findings from a research project into gender and linguistic participation in the devolved institutions of the UK. In traditional parliamentary institutions such as the House of Commons at Westminster, women have been found to participate less than men in relation to illegal interventions on the debate floor, and this has put them at an interactional disadvantage. Using a mixed method approach of ethnography, detailed discourse analysis of debates, and a quantitative analysis of debate turns, this project aimed to investigate whether women in the ‘new’ devolved institutions of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly also adhere to debate rules in this way.
The ‘new’ devolved institutions differ from traditional parliaments in some key respects. Women’s numerical representation in two of the institutions is much higher than that of the House of Commons; women have been involved in the planning and design of these institutions from the beginning; and egalitarian considerations have been fundamental to the development of new practices and procedures. Here I present data to show that women in these new assemblies are participating in the full range of interactional activities in debates, including illegal interventions. However, interview data with politicians shows that gendered discourses of differentiation are prevalent in their evaluation of linguistic performances. These stereotypical notions of male and female ‘styles’ of speech are identified and I attempt to critically appraise the constraints that this may put upon politicians’ participation. I also suggest that an awareness of the gendered discourses of differentiation can help to avoid (re)producing assumptions about gendered behaviour when constructing research questions to investigate women’s substantive representation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Item ID: 9894
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Sylvia Shaw
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2013 10:35
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2017 14:11
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/9894

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