Women Leading the Opposition: Gender and Rhetoric in the European Parliament

Henriette Müller, Pamela Pansardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The European Parliament (EP) is an intriguing arena to study the nexus between gender, speech‐making, and leadership performance, as it simultaneously challenges and confirms gender‐based hierarchies in legislative contexts. While the EP has a higher level of women’s representation than national parliaments, women’s access to top‐level positions nonethe-less remains limited. Yet the EP is a special case of a legislature. Lacking a right of initiative, it often acts collectively as an inter‐institutional opposition to the other EU core institutions. In this article, through a software‐assisted analysis of EP debates following the president’s State of the Union Address, we investigate party group leaders’ evaluations of the Com-mission’s proposals and their charismatic rhetoric from a gender angle. Focusing on the three most recent legislatures (2009–2021), our analysis shows that while collective inter‐institutional opposition is present in the EP, women leaders generally show higher levels of rhetorical skillfulness and voice either approval or opposition toward the Commission more emphatically than their male counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-176
Number of pages13
JournalPolitics and Governance
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • European Parliament
  • charismatic rhetoric
  • gender
  • inter‐institutional opposition
  • party group leaders
  • political speeches
  • women’s leadership performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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