Ottawa professors discuss ‘Federalism and Feminism’ book at Forum event

Professors Melissa Haussman (left) and Jill Vickers, of Carleton University, pose with their recently published book.

Two Ottawa-based professors shared the main findings of their recently published book, Federalism, Feminism & Multi-level Governance at a Forum Lunch-and-Learn event on Nov. 17 in Ottawa.

Professors Jill Vickers and Melissa Haussman of Carleton University told the gathering of about 40 people that the most surprising finding of their research is that there is a higher percentage of women elected to governments of so-called "unitary” countries than in federal countries.

Federal countries have at least two orders of government, one for the whole country, and the other for the regions, while unitary countries only have one order of government for the entire country.

Prof. Vickers said that this was an unexpected and counter-intuitive finding because generally, countries with federal systems of government tend to be more stable, and offer other good governance outcomes. She said it is also worrying, since 40 per cent of the world’s people live in about 28 federal countries.

Until recently, few gender scholars took notice of the impact of state architecture on women’s representation, political opportunities, and policy achievements. Likewise scholars of federalism, devolution and multilevel governance have largely ignored their gender impact.

The book of Profs. Vickers and Haussman looks at how women’s politics are affected by and affect federalism, whether in Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia or the United States.

It also assesses the gender implications of devolution and multilevel governance in the European Union, including case studies of the United Kingdom and Germany.

Globally, multilevel governance is providing new arenas for women’s politics. For example, the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has led most governments to adopt gender-equality norms while other UN instruments have supported Aboriginal self-government.

Prof. Vickers is a Distinguished Research Professor and Emeritus Chancellor’s Professor in Political Science at Carleton University. A Fellow of the Royal Society, Vickers is author of 11 books, and many articles in comparative politics (gender and race politics), comparative federalism and political theory. In addition to co-editing Feminism, Federalism and Multilevel Governance. Vickers also co-edited in 2010 a special issue of Publius: The Journal of Federalism, comparing Canadian and U.S. federalism.

Prof. Haussman is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University. She is the author of Abortion Politics in North America (Lynne Rienner, 2005); and co-editor of and an author in, Melissa Haussman and Birgit Sauer, eds., Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women’s Movements in Postindustrial Democracies (Rowman).

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