Professor Sarah Childs

IASH-SSPS Visiting Fellow

Sarah Childs is Professor of Politics and Gender at the University of Bristol, UK. She has published widely on women’s political representation. Her most recent research book, Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party: From Iron Lady to Kitten Heels’, 2012, was published in 2012, and was written with Paul Webb, Palgrave. In 2015 she published two edited books Gender, Conservatism and Representation, and Deeds and Words with Celis and Campbell respectively, both ECPR press. 2016 saw the publication of The Good Parliament Report following a secondment to the UK House of Commons. This identifies the diversity insensitivities in the House and provides a comprehensive blueprint for reform.


Drafting a book proposal whilst at IASH, May 2017

 The Good Substantive Representation of Women

We live in an era where groups’ issues and interests are increasingly, and explicitly, acknowledged to be diverse; and where they are unlikely to become any less diverse in the foreseeable future. The combustable character of many societal debates on women’s issues, e.g. the burkini debate in France and other European countries, seems here to stay.  The intersectionality of gender, class, ethnicity, age and sexual preference amongst others, generates for example, a multiple, and likely conflicting, set of women’s interests that warrant political representation in political systems seeking to be considered democratic. It poses a real challenge to activists and scholars wanting to assess and improve the quality of women’s substantive representation. It cannot be limited to the presence of a small (and likely partial) group of women in our elected political institutions, articulating a particular reading of women’s interests. Theories and concepts about substantive representation, our empirical assessments thereof, and the design of representative institutions must be able to capture the complexity of these social interests.