Gendering political leadership in the Scottish Parliament since devolution

Shaw, Laura (2024) Gendering political leadership in the Scottish Parliament since devolution. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis sets out to explore the extent to which the experience of political leadership in the Scottish Parliament gendered, the extent to which the Scottish Parliament is a gendered workplace and how this has gendered outcomes for political leaders. It responds to the emergent body of literature that conceptualises parliaments as gendered workplaces and how this impacts leadership. At present, this body of literature remains in its infancy and recognises that there is much to be discovered. In this light, the Scottish Parliament presents an empirically rich research setting to respond to such calls. Unlike other national parliaments, gender equality was designed in the feminist institutional blueprint of the parliament and the Scottish Parliament has enjoyed relative success on women’s representation where women have occupied 33-45% of seats since 1999. Additionally since devolution, existing literature on the Scottish Parliament has not systematically explored gender and political leadership, nor has the Scottish Parliament been conceptualised as a gendered workplace, in the 24 years of the parliament’s existence.

Empirically, this thesis is based on a unique dataset of 31 elite interviews with men and women MSPs. The cross-party interview sample includes former and current MSPs from each of the political parties elected in the first five sessions of the Scottish Parliament (1999- 2021). This thesis develops a theoretical framing by using Bourdieusian concepts of habitus, capitals, and field to understand the ways that leaders’ biographies shape their leadership practice, how leadership capitals are learned and developed, and how the rules of the field shape leadership. This is combined with a Feminist Institutionalist approach to examine the ways in which the formal and informal rules in the parliament are gendered. Using Bourdieu’s concepts, the thesis develops a distinctive leadership practice that is informed by MSPs’ pre-parliamentary histories that influence the field-specific political habitus in the parliament. Women’s inclusion has created a feminised habitus where both men and women value and embody leadership capitals, including collegiality, care, and empathy. However, conclusions drawn indicate the presence of feminine workplace ideals that exist in tension with masculine workplace practices. In sum, this thesis contributes to understandings of gender and political leadership that go beyond reductive binary gendered leadership assumptions by situating leadership in the complex political field where valued leadership capitals are informed by the ‘gendered conditions’ of the political landscape, parliamentary history, and gendered workplace rules.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN1187 Scotland
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Supervisor's Name: Robinson, Professor Sarah, Dudau, Professor Adina and Kenny, Professor Meryl
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84126
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2024 14:32
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2024 14:33
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84126

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