From gender equity to gendered assignments? Women and cabinet committees in Canada and the United Kingdom

Nora Siklodi*, Kenny Ie, Nicholas Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

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    This article explores women’s access to ministerial power in an important but understudied arena of executive politics: cabinet committees. Specifically, we analyse the gendered patterns in the distribution of cabinet committee assignments in two ‘typical’ Westminster cases, Canada and the United Kingdom, and under two prime ministers, Justin Trudeau (2015-21) and David Cameron (2010-16), who both made explicit gender-equity pledges. Informed by previous research into gendered allocation of ministerial portfolios, we investigate the overall extent of women’s committee assignments, the gendered dimensions of these assignments and the status of assignments, namely the ‘prestige’ of committee remits, whether committees were chaired by the prime minister and the allocation of chairing responsibilities across committees. In both cases, overall assignment broadly matched shares of women ministers at the cabinet-level, but less so during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (2010-15). Women’s shares of committee assignments were likely to be lower on ‘masculine’ and ‘high-prestige’ committees compared to ‘neutral’, ‘feminine’ and ‘low-prestige’ committees, but commitment to gender equity is more evident in the Canadian case. While our aim is exploratory and descriptive, we offer several explanations for these patterns, including the supply of women ministers, departmentalism, party branding and the low public profile of cabinet committees.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGovernment and Opposition
    Early online date3 Jul 2023
    Publication statusEarly online - 3 Jul 2023


    • gender
    • cabinet committees
    • Canada
    • United Kingdom
    • ministerial power
    • executive politics

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