Democratic Practice and Policymaking at the Regional Level in Europe, Testing the Gender and Diversity Agenda

  • Joanna Legg

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis explores whether and how the substantive representation of women has been enabled or constrained by specific features of the gendered institutional context during domestic abuse policy development in two new regional legislatures, in Wales and in Tuscany.The thesis uses a sociological institutionalist approach to explore the involvement of civil society women’s organisations in the everyday processes of domestic abuse policy development across the case study regions. Both regions are structured by uniquely advanced formal rules committing to the inclusion of civil society organisations and to the value of gender equality. A critical discourse analytic approach is used to investigate how pre-existing informal norms and discursive frames interact with these formal rules in shaping actors’ behaviour and the policy solutions proposed to tackle domestic abuse.Feminist political science scholars have hypothesised that changes in the political environment across the European Union, including decentralisation and the devolution of power to the sub-national level, have generated new institutions which may provide greater opportunities for actors making claims for women to participate in the policy process and to influence its outputs, thus improving the substantive representation of women. However, this thesis argues that in the case of domestic abuse policy development, new formal rules making a symbolic commitment to the inclusion of new actors in governing processes were often undermined by tenacious informal norms. Women’s organisations that were better equipped to play by pre-existing informal rules were more likely to be included.This thesis makes a contribution to theory-building in the field of feminist political science through an exploration of the nuanced effects of new governing structures on the participation of value-driven women’s organisations in policy development. It shows how gendered, culturally dominant discursive frames and wider, pre-existing norms shaping perceptions of appropriate behaviour can affect women’s organisations’ opportunities for action in the policy process, and their capacity to influence outputs.
Date of Award26 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorAnna Bull (Supervisor) & Hanna Diamond (Supervisor)


  • Gender
  • institutional context
  • regions

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