Campaigning, Working, and Representing: Gender and Politics in a Global Pandemic

Rayment, Erica J. | $21,677

Alberta University of Calgary 2021 SSHRC

Campaigning, Working, and Representing: Gender and Politics in a Global Pandemic

When the COVID‑19 global pandemic struck in March 2020, parliaments around the world were forced to adapt quickly. Travel restrictions, physical distancing, and stay-at-home mandates required politicians around the world to change how they campaign, legislate, and serve constituents. Some assemblies suspended their work temporarily, others continued to sit with fewer legislators, while others went fully virtual. Some elections were delayed, and mail-in voting was expanded for others. The measures implemented in response to the pandemic, and the public’s responses to them offer unique opportunities for scholars, equality advocates, and practitioners to assess how recent changes help or hinder efforts to make politics and parliaments more accessible and hospitable for women.

Early studies of these and other measures have raised concerns about the potential erosion of parliamentary accountability and oversight, the possibilities of proxy voting, and the significantly higher workload for members of parliament. Studies suggest women are far less likely than men, as voters, to believe conspiracy theories based on COVID-19. However, few studies have systematically explored the gendered dimensions of the pandemic with respect to running for and holding elected office.

The pandemic’s negative effects on women are starting to emerge and range from increased risks of domestic violence, a “she-cession” with more job losses and withdrawal from the workforce in greater numbers among women than men, and higher reports of mental health problems. The unique harms experienced by women makes women’s presence in parliaments and their ability to represent women constituents effectively a crucial area of inquiry.

Our workshop brings together an international group of researchers, practitioners, gender equality advocates and the broader public to discuss the gendered impacts of the pandemic on politics and parliaments. We ask:

1) What are the gendered impacts of COVID‑19 on campaigning for and serving in elected office?

2) How has the pandemic affected the core parliamentary functions of representation, scrutiny, and legislation particularly for those issues related to the pandemic’s negative impact on women?

3) Can the measures adopted to respond to COVID‑19 be leveraged to secure further women-friendly and family-friendly reforms to the working of parliaments?

The knowledge produced by workshop participants will be shared with several audiences in scholarly, practitioner, and public-facing venues. Summary reports for parliamentary officers will ensure that those most familiar with parliamentary procedures understand their gendered consequences and op-eds and short conversational articles will inform the public about the importance of taking gender into account when crafting post-pandemic parliamentary protocols. Finally, we will produce scholarly publications focused on the gendered dimensions of campaigning, working, and representing during the COVID‑19 pandemic, with case studies of parliaments in various regions of the world.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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