Pathways to Politics


Researchers at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester and The University of Manchester have been tasked by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to explore the common career pathways and possible barriers facing under-represented groups seeking to become elected political representatives.

Pathways to Politics will examine the common routes people have taken to become political representatives. It will identify the barriers preventing people from different social groups, such as women, ethnic minorities, or disabled people, from being selected or elected and recommend measures that would make the process fairer.

The Commission will present selected findings in November to the Speaker’s Conference, a parliamentary body that has been tasked with making parliament more representative of the population. A final report bringing together both stages of the research will be published in summer 2010.

The project is being led by Dr. Catherine Durose, Research Fellow in the Local Governance Research Unit (LGRU), based at Leicester Business School, De Montfort University. The research team also includes Dr. Francesca Gains and Liz Richardson from The University of Manchester.

The research involves interviews with elected members and officials from across political parties, past members and unsuccessful candidates, as well as key mentoring and lobby groups. Samples will take into account social and religious backgrounds and under-represented equality groups – women, ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), younger and disabled people.

Dr. Durose from DMU commented: “Politics is in crisis, with the recession and expenses row, the public is losing faith in the Government and the numbers of votes are falling with each election. Despite significant progress being made over the last 30 years, elected institutions in the UK are still unrepresentative of the population as a whole. There is an opportunity for change and this research aims to produce workable recommendations for political parties and policy makers.”

Dr. Francesca Gains from The University of Manchester added: “All political parties are looking at ways to get new faces and new voices into politics at the moment.  We would like our work to offer parties the opportunity to go for new approaches that make politics more inclusive, and not simply replicate some of the dividing lines that exist between people in power and those who are left outside.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a non-departmental public body, which was established by the Equality Act (2006) on 1 October 2007, with responsibility for race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, as well as human rights, across England, Scotland and Wales.

For further information about the Pathways to Politics research project, please contact the LGRU unit at DMU on 0116 257 7780.

Notes to editors:

For more press information about the research, please contact De Montfort University’s Press Office on 0116 250 6244.

For more information about the Equality and Human Rights Commission, please contact its  Media Office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 0776 727 2818.

Speaker’s Conference

On 12 November 2008 the House of Commons agreed to establish a new committee, to be chaired by the Speaker and known as the Speaker's Conference. The Conference has been asked to: "Consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large".  The Speaker's Conference has until the end of the Parliament to conduct its inquiry.

Researcher biographies

Dr. Catherine Durose is a RCUK Research Fellow at the Local Governance Research Unit, De Montfort University. Catherine joined LGRU from the University of Manchester where she worked for the Institute of Political and Economic Governance and held an ESRC doctoral studentship from 2004 to 2007. Her research interests are broadly on participation and empowerment, as well as tackling poverty and inequality with a particular focus on gender.

Dr. Francesca Gains is a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy in the School of Social Sciences, Director of the Governance, Representation and Policy Research Area Group and a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Political and Economic Governance. Before entering academia she worked in local government and the probation service, and has had both government funded and Parliamentary research experience.

Liz Richardson is a Research Fellow in the Institute for Political and Economic Governance (IPEG). Liz joined IPEG in August 2006. Before joining IPEG she was Co-ordinator of LSE Housing, a research unit at the London School of Economics within the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion.

Ryan Combs is a PhD research student at The University of Manchester’s School of Social Sciences with research interests in Public Policy, Health Policy, Gender and Sexuality, Social Movements and Qualitative Methods.

Christina Eason is a PhD research student at The University of Manchester’s School of Social Sciences with research interests in British politics, gender, women, representation, and institutions.


Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)


September 2009 to June 2010

Project Team

Project Lead: Dr Catherine Durose. RCUK Research Fellow

Dr Francesca Gains

Senior Lecturer, Politics, University of Manchester

Liz Richardson

Research Fellow, Institute for Political and Economic Governance, University of Manchester

Ryan Combs

Research Assistant, University of Manchester

Dr Karl Broome

Research Fellow, Sociology, University of Sussex

Christina Eason

Research Assistant, University of Manchester 

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