The Precarious Case of Female Representation: A Single Case Study of Female Political Representation in Lund’s Municipality

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen; Lunds universitet/Master of Science in Social Studies of Gender; Lunds universitet/Graduate School

Abstract: The thesis proceeds from Sweden’s first gender equality sub-goal; Equal Division of Power and Influence, in order to investigate how the political power is divided between the sexes within local committees in Skåne and in Lund. Political commitments at local level should be carried out alongside labour or other occupation; and thus the overall aim of the thesis is to investigate if labour market mechanisms affect women’s representation in local governments. A single case study of female representation in Lund’s local government with both quantitative and qualitative methodology was conducted and through criterion sampling, eight female time politicians were selected and interviewed. The thesis takes its point of departure from some of Anne Phillips’ (1995) arguments developed in The Politics of Presence; in particular her notion that the sex of the representatives is significant and affects their political agenda. The data collected from the semi-structured interviews is analysed within the context of the ideas put forth in The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing (2014a). The result implies an unequal allocation of power between the sexes in local committees in Skåne and in Lund. Women are underrepresented in the majority of the committees and possess fewer power positions. The division of representation both resembles and is affected by the horizontal and vertical gender segregation in the labour market. The respondents claimed that their political commitments were possible due to the nature of their employments and employees. This might be one reason for the political underrepresentation of women in Lund’s municipality, as female-dominated sectors are of precariatic nature and characterised by low salaries, insecure employments and high rates of sick-leaves. Women with precarious employments are not able to take leave of absence for their jobs for political commitments, despite their right by law. Moreover, the respondents implied that it is more difficult for women to become time politicians , due to the traditional notion that women hold responsibility for domestic positions, such as caring for children and the elderly; hence have limited time to indulge in leisure and participate in democratic activities. The result indicates that the unequal allocation of power in Lund’s local government is related to mechanisms that define the Swedish labour market.

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