School of Law, Politics and Sociology

Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party

Paul Webb and Sarah Childs of the University of Bristol were awarded £475,000 by the ESRC conduct this research (project grant RES-062-23-0647). Dr. Sally Marthaler, based in the Sussex European Institute, was Research Officer to the project.

The project (which ran from October 2007-September 2010) provides a comprehensive gendered analysis of the contemporary Conservative Party in order to assess the extent to which it is incorporating women and their concerns into the party. Drawing on mainstream political science accounts of parties and party systems, comparative party literature on centre-right parties and feminist accounts of women's political representation, the research examines the recruitment of women in the party and identifies the attitudes, roles and influences of women and men within the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary party. It also explores changes in policy on 'women's issues' since 1990, how the party acts on women's legislation as it passes through Parliament, and considers policy developments under David Cameron's leadership. Further, it explores whether the party's efforts to increase the number of Conservative women MPs, along with its policies on women's issues, were favourably received by voters. The research used a range of methods: a survey; in-depth interviews; analysis of parliamentary behaviour; focus groups with voters; analysis of party manifestos and policy documents; as well as secondary analysis of existing data sets, including the British Representation Studies and the British Election Studies. Resulting data (which have been deposited with the ESRC's Data Archive at the University of Essex) have been subjected to both qualitative and quantitative analysis.

The project produced a number of academic publications, including:

Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party: From Iron Lady to Kitten Heels (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), with Sarah Childs

'Gender politics and conservatism: The view from the British Conservative Party grassroots' Government and Opposition, January 2012(with Sarah Childs).

'Wets and dries resurgent? Intra-party alignments among contemporary Conservative Party members' Parliamentary Affairs, 64:3 (July 2011), 383-402 (with Sarah Childs).

'Constituting and Substantively Representing Women:  Applying New Approaches to a UK Case Study' Politics and Gender, 6/2 (2010): 199-223. (with Sarah Childs & Sally Marthaler)

‘The feminization of the Conservative Party: Party members and party cohesion’ The Political Quarterly, 80/2: 204-213 (April-June 2009), with Sarah Childs & Sally Marthaler.

Chapter summaries of Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party: From Iron Lady to Kitten Heels are available at: Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party [PDF 145.26KB]