Under-representation of women is “widelyregarded as a problem, and a substantial number of political parties haveadopted measures to increase the number ofwomen elected” (Phillips, 2009). Hanna Pitkin’sconcept of descriptive representation “declares that individual electedofficials who share similar demographic and empirical characteristics of theirconstituencies that have the necessaryunderstanding to assess and construct representative policy” (Kurebwa, 2015 ).For this reason, representation of women is importantbecause the voices and opinions of women are not being heard. Todemonstrate, the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) particularly “inthe House of Representatives “consists of 110 female Members (20.3% of thetotal membership) serve in the 115th Congress” (Manning, 2017).This is an example of under-representation of women because the gap between thefemale and male members of Congress isvast, the 20.
3% cannot represent different types of women. Moreover, Pitkin’sdefinition of political representation is arguably one of the moststraightforward explanations. Pitkin suggests representing is purely to “makepresent again” meaning, political representation is the activity of makingcitizens’ voices, opinions and perspectives “present” in the public policy-making processes.
Under-representationof women matters because it prevents society from moving forward in thedirection of equality and from putting Pitkin’s definition of representation into reality. In practice, descriptiverepresentation tries to amend unequal social conditions by ensuring “historically marginalized groups suchas women the chances to become political elites. In so doing, proponents statethat descriptive representation protects the interests of the disadvantaged” (Kurebwa, 2015 ).Therefore, political under-representation of women is an important issue thatshouldn’t be ignored, but instead,solutions to prevent under-representation should be put into action.
Representativenessis a crucial concern in recent debates involving “the democratic level of ourpolitical institutions and developments” (Phillips, 1995). Theunder-representation of “specific groups in political institutions,decision-making and policies is a democratic problem of justice, validity,awareness, and efficiency” (Phillips, 1995). Hanna Pitkin offers, possibly, one of the most upfront explanationsof representation: “to represent is simply to ‘make present again’. From thisdefinition, political representation is the activity of making citizens’voices, opinions, and perspectives ‘present’ in public policy-making processes” (Dovi, 2006).In this essay, I will discuss and examinetraditional theories of representation; such as descriptive and substantiverepresentation. While at the same time highlighting the importance of politicalrepresentation of women and how women’s participating in politics effectsrepresentation using mainstream feminist arguments of justice, practical and difference arguments.