Comparative European Politics

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 95–113

Substantive Representation of Women (and Improving it): What it is and should be About?

  • Karen Celis
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/cep.2008.35

Cite this article as:
Celis, K. Comp Eur Polit (2009) 7: 95. doi:10.1057/cep.2008.35


More and more countries implement quotas and install women's policy agencies as an answer to the underrepresentation of women and gender-related interests in politics and policy. The main argument is that more women MPs and the structural presence of attention for women's interests not only contribute to just and democratic politics, but also enhance the quality of democratic decision and policy-making on a substantive level. Women MPs and women's policy agencies would foster the inclusion of women's interests and gendered perspectives. However, it remains unclear what ‘substantive representation of women’ and improving it actually mean. This paper first deals with the ‘what’ of substantive representation of women in terms of the acts and contents involved: what is it about? Next, it focuses on the improvement of the substantive representation of women: what is better substantive representation and how can it be reached? My answer to this question refers to quantitative improvements (for example, more support for women's interests by representatives) and qualitative improvements (for example, support for a broader range of women and women's interests). ‘Good’ substantive representation implies recognizing diversity and ideological conflict regarding women's interests and gendered perspectives.


substantive representationwomen's interestswomen MPswomen's policy agencies

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Celis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Business Studies and Public Administration, University College Ghent – Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium