Major new study will investigate causes of global persistent inequality in female electoral representation

The new study will shed new light on why there are fewer female than male politicians around the world

A major new study will shed new light on why there are fewer female than male politicians around the world, and if sexism, discrimination and violence are to blame.

Experts will examine if there is a “gender penalty” faced by women candidates and any impact, including how it affects their path to political office.

Researchers will investigate the causes and consequences of sexism in campaigns, and how it varies in different countries and cultures. They will look to see if there is a relationship between sexism and gender-based violence in election campaigns.

The study is funded by the European Research Council as part of the prestigious 2020 Advanced Grants competition. A total of €507million has been given to 209 leading researchers across Europe to support work including investigating the links between obesity and pancreatic cancer and threats from wildlife viruses.

TWICEASGOOD is led by Professor Susan Banducci, who will also analyse the role of the media, both traditional and social, in reflecting or promoting sexism and violence against women political candidates.

The research team will draw on data and observations from the electorate, including surveys and experiments. Academics will also carry out participant observation, in-depth interviews and surveys with candidates.

Professor Banducci said: “We will work to see if there is a connection between sexist cultures and campaign strategies and electoral outcomes. By spending time with candidates on the campaign trail, observing interactions with the media and voters and analysing this alongside online interactions across a variety of electoral and cultural contexts our investigation into gender bias in electoral politics will break new ground and lead to a more complete understanding of the persistent inequality in women’s representation around the world.”

ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said: “For this last ERC call under Horizon 2020, over 200 researchers will be funded to follow their scientific instinct and dreams. Still, the great increase in demand led to a very fierce competition: only 8 per cent of candidates were successful. Many outstanding researchers with innovative ideas passed the excellence threshold, but were left unfunded due to budget constraints- another motivation for the national or regional levels to support these great projects.

“We look forward to seeing what major insights and breakthroughs will spring from this investment and trust. We are pleased with the continued positive trend for women researchers showing that ERC’s sustained efforts on this matter pay off.

“Apart from strengthening Europe’s knowledge base, the new research projects will also lead to the creation of some 1,900 new jobs for post-doctoral fellows, PhD students and other research staff.”

The future grantees will carry out their projects at universities and research centres across 14 EU Member States and associated countries with the UK (51 grants),Germany (40), France (22) and Netherlands (17) hosting the highest number of grants.

Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “The awarding of more than 200 ERC Advanced Grants in key scientific areas will help boost our scientific research and innovation capacity, for the benefit of all EU citizens. We will be able to continue and reinforce investments with the forthcoming Horizon Europe ERC work programmes. I am also pleased to see more women applying for these prestigious grants and winning them.”

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