An Integrated Model of Women's Representation


Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer ( is assistant professor of political science, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677-1848. William Mishler ( is professor of political science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0027.


The concept of representation, as developed in Hanna Pitkin's seminal work, is a complex structure, whose multiple dimensions are hypothesized to be closely interconnected. Most empirical work, however, ignores the integrated character of representation and examines its several dimensions in isolation. The picture of representation that results is not so much incorrect as incomplete. This research tests an integrated model of representation linking formal, descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation. Data on the representation of women in 31 democracies confirms the interconnections among the several dimensions of representation. The structure of electoral systems exerts powerful influences on both women's descriptive representation and symbolic representation. Descriptive representation, in turn, increases legislatures’ responsiveness to women's policy concerns and enhances perceptions of legitimacy. The effects of substantive representation, however, are much less than theory anticipates.