Seminar: Women and men in the Romanian Parliament – the role of political parties in gender political representation with Oana Băluță

The event will take place at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work (Panduri Campus), Room 102, starting at 3:30 PM.

The analysis I propose critically reflects on the role played by political parties in Romania in regards to gender parliamentary representation. With the help of the 2016 parliamentary elections data, I aim to advance explanations on one hand for the increase of 8.5% in women’s descriptive political representation and on the other hand for the still considerable gender gap in descriptive representation (19% women and 81% men).

Political representation of women has been an important area for theory production and consistent research since the middle of the last century. There is consistent international research dedicated to the role of political parties in the equation of women’s political representation (Norris, Lovenduski 1995; Norris, 1997; Fox, Lawless, 2005; Niven, 2010; Caul, 2010; Krook, 2010; Cheng and Tavits, 2011 etc.). During the recruitment process, political parties act as gatekeepers. Research provides evidence for party gender bias that may clarify political parties’ hesitation to support women candidates (Fox, Lawless, 2005; Sanbonmatsu, 2002) and also creates a framework for analyzing party recruitment (Norris, Lovenduski, 1995; Norris, 1997; Krook, 2010). Not very often have political factors come under the scrutiny of consistent research and public debates in post-communist countries (except for Matland, Montgomery, 2003).

According to Montgomery (2004), „most studies focus on the twenty-five or so most affluent and long-standing democracies and find that political factors (the design of electoral rules and party characteristics) hold the greatest explanatory power„ (Montgomery, 2004, p.5). However, studies of lesser developed countries tend to emphasize socioeconomic and cultural factors for women’s under-representation (low levels of education, workforce participation). At the same time, Montgomery notices that the emphasis on these factors “depends (..) on whether the researcher sees political equality as a product of certain social and cultural prerequisites or as primarily the consequence of incentives created by institutional and political choices” (Montgomery, 2004, p.6). The analysis considering political factors impinging political representation is almost absent in Romania as researchers have focused almost exclusively on cultural and socioeconomic factors (Pasti, 2003; Miroiu, 2004; Popescu, 2004). Gender roles, educational system, party ideology, socio-economic obstacles have been either emphasized or documented (Băluţă, 2006; Ghebrea, Tătărâm, Creţoiu, 2005; Miroiu, 2004; Popescu, 2004; Pasti, 2003).

Though recruitment became a research topic for scholars focusing on Central and Eastern Europe, their work addressing parliamentary elites did not include a gender perspective (Semenova, Edinger, Best, 2014). As far as I am aware of, even if research of post-communist Romanian parliamentary elites started in 2003, along the years, the role played by recruitment practices in the under-representation of women has not caught the interest of researchers (Ștefan, Grecu, 2014; Muntean, Preda, 2016 –the most recent). Their work has also relied mostly upon aggregate trends in the composition of the elite over time – education, age, occupations etc. Considering the above, I argue that the role played by political parties in recruiting candidates should be analyzed to understand and explain women’s under-representation in the Romanian parliament.

The electoral process, creates two filters for women: through the first filter, women must be selected by parties in order to run for political office, and it is in the second filter that women must be selected by the electorate in order to achieve political office (Kunovich, Paxton, 2005, p. 507).
The research I am working on is an ongoing process and the conclusions will be more nuanced in the near future as I have just completed the field research that includes 30 interviews with MPs or candidates for the 2016 parliamentary elections, members of The Social Democratic Party, The National Liberal Party and The Save Romania Party (more than 50 hours of interviewing). I believe that this micro level approach will allow me to investigate one process that in highly complex since multiple factors and actors decide who gets selected and why and explain the recruitment model(s) used by political parties and whether and how it is individualized by gender and political party.


_MG_0350Oana Băluță is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science, University of Bucharest where she teaches Gender and Politics, Introduction into Contemporary Political Ideologies, New Social Movements and Citizens’ Participation. She also teaches two courses at the Faculty of Political Science, National School of Political Science and Public Administration: Gender, Minorities and Political Representation; Communication and Political Campaigns.
She has a PhD in Political Science with a thesis on gender and contemporary political interests (2009, National School of Political Science and Public Administration) and finished her postdoctoral program in 2015 where she focused on theoretical and methodological approaches of political representation. Her research topics are: gender political interests, gender political representation, gender policies and new social movements. She is currently working on political parties and Parliamentary recruiting practices, domestic violence- policies and civic activism and contentious feminist resistance to austerity measures.

Major publications on above topics include:

Articles (selection)
Creating and feeding discourses on political representation of women. Can MPs and NGOs join hands on quotas?, 2015, AnALize- Journal of Gender and Feminist Studies, no. 5(19) 2015,; Women entering the presidential arena. Running a campaign on social media ? in Revista Sfera Politicii nr. 185, septembrie 2015.; Representing and consuming women. Paradoxes in media covering violence against women în Journal of Media Research, vol.8, issue 2, (22), 2015.; Gender, politics and mass media: stereotypical representations. How do we draw the line? (Gen, politică şi mass-media: reprezentări stereotipizate. Cum tragem linia?) in Sfera Politicii nr. 1 (183), March-April 2015, p. 105-119.

Books, chapters (selection)
Reflexive Modern Feminism (author, 2013), Women’s Social Exclusion and Feminisms: Living in Parallel Worlds (co-author), 2012 in Gendering Transition. Studies of Changing Gender Perspectives from Easter Europe, Krassimira Daskalova, Caroline Hornstein-Tomic, Karl Kaser and Filip Radunovic (eds.), Publishing House LIT Verlag Vienna, Münster, Berlin, London (co-author); Gender and Political Interests (2008, co-author), Equal Partners. Equal Competitors (2007, coord.), Gender and Power. Lion’s share in Romanian Politics (editor, 2006), etc.

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