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Politics and International Relations (PIR): People


Fiona Mackay

Fiona Mackay
Professor Fiona Mackay
Professor of Politics; Director of genderED
3.18 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 650 4244
Research Interests
Gender and political institutions, gender mainstreaming, gender and public policy, Feminist institutionalism, women's movements, International Organisations, Feminism, Institutions and institutional change, organizations and institutions, Political representation, gender based violence, women and politics, Inequality & diversity

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • By appointment. Please email Please note I am on research leave from January 2018.

My Edinburgh Research Explorer listing can be accessed here:


  • BA (Hons) Politics and Modern History (University of Manchester)
  • PhD Politics (University of Edinburgh)

Recent posts

Fiona Mackay is Professor of Politics,  and outgoing Dean and Head of the School of Social and Political Science (2014-2017).  She served as Director of the Graduate School of Social and Political Science (2009-12), Deputy Director (2003-07), and Politics Postgraduate Adviser (2007-8). She was a member of the ESRC Virtual Research College (2003-2008), the ESRC Case Studentship Panel (2005-07), and the ESRC DTC Peer Review College (2010). She serves on the editorial boards of Policy and Politics, and PoliticsGroups and Identities, and is a Consultant Editor for the British Journal of Politics and IR. She founded and co-directs the Feminism and Institutionalism International Network (FIIN), an international collaboration developing a distinctive approach to the study of gender and politics. Fiona co-edits the  FIIN series Feminist  Institutionalist Perspectives published in partnership with Rowman Littlefield International.  She directs the University's new genderED initiative.  She is a member of the Gender Politics Research Group, and curates the twitter feed @genderpol and the blog genderpolitics@edinburgh.  Fiona is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE).

Research Interests

Fiona Mackay's research focuses on the impact of gender reform efforts during periods of restructuring and institutional change, addressing the extent to which global and local institutions of politics and governance may be designed or reformed to address gender inequality and promote gender justice. She is currently undertaking two linked research projects on institutional change in the United Nations system. Gender Equality Architecture Reform in the UN: Designing UN Women maps the creation of the UN's new entity for gender equality, and Early Days: Building UN Women examines its early years (funded by British Academy/Leverhulme and University of Edinburgh). 

With colleagues at Bristol, Birkbeck, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, QMUL and Sussex, Fiona co-organised the recent ESRC-funded seminar series  Feminizing Politics and Power which examined access, voice and accountability in British politics. Sarah Childs (University Bristol) leads (2014-16).

She is also part of the UGC-UKERI funded project Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives: Questions of Identity, Pedagogy and Violence in India and the UK, led by Radhika Govinda (University of Edinburgh) which runs from 2017-2019; the DfID funded programme Political Settlements, led by Christine Bell and the Global Justice Academy (University of Edinburgh) which runs from 2015-18; and the recent European Research Council funded programme, Understanding Institutional Change: A Gender Perspective, led by Georgina Waylen (University of Manchester, ended 2017).

Fiona directed Gender and Constitutional Change in the UK (2001-3), a project funded under the ESRC Devolution and Constitutional Change Programme. She  co-organised a programme of seminars (2012/13), Constitutional Futures: Gender Equality Matters in a New Scotland, funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, to inform public debate in the run up to the 2014 Independence Referendum.

She has longstanding interests in the relationship between political institutions and political actors, especially with regards to the institutional opportunities and obstacles to advancing women's access to political office and promoting women friendly public policy. Fiona has held research grants and consultancies with bodies including the Economic and Social Research Council, British Academy/ Leverhulme, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Communities Scotland, the Scottish Government, and the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.

Recent Publications

Fiona's most recent book, Gender, Politics, and Institutions: Towards a Feminist Institutionalism is co-edited with Mona Lena Krook and was launched at the 2nd European Conference on Politics and Gender in Budapest in January 2011.  A paperback edition was published in 2015.

Praise for Gender, Politics, and Institutions 

This superb book is one of those rare collections that moves a field forward --Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Cornell University.

Fiona is co-author of Women, Politics and Constitutional Change: the first years of the National Assembly for Wales, (University of Wales Press, 2007, with Paul Chaney and Laura McAllister). Her first book. Love and Politics: Women Politicians and the Ethics of Care (Continuum, 2001), was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in 2002. She has also co-edited The Changing Politics of Gender Equality in Britain (Palgrave, 2002) and Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics (Polygon, 2001).

Recent articles and book chapters include:

with L. Chappell (2017) 'What's in a Name? Mapping the Terrain of Informal Institutions and Gender Politics', in G. Waylen (ed) Gender and Informal Institutions. Rowman Littlefield International, 23-44.

with M. Kenny (2017) 'Feminist and Gender Approaches", in V. Lowndes, D. Marsh and G. Stoker (eds) Theory and Methods in Political Science, 4th Edn. Palgrave Macmillan, 92-108.

(2014) 'Nested Newness, Institutional Innovation and the Gendered Limits of Change', Politics & Gender 10(4): 549-571 doi:10.1017/S1743923X14000415

with G. Waylen (eds) (2014) Gendering New Institutions, Special Issue of  Politics & Gender 10(4) doi:10.1017/S1743923X14000385 

with F. Armitage and R. Malley (2014) 'Gender and political institutions', in R. Campbell and S. Childs (eds) Deeds and Words: Gendering politics after Joni Lovenduski. ECPR Press, 93-112.

with R.A.W.Rhodes (2013) 'Gender, Greedy Institutions and the Departmental Court', Public Administration 91(3):582-598.doi10.1111/padm.12012

with N. Charles (2013) 'Feminist politics and framing contests: Domestic Violence Policy in Scotland and Wales', Critical Social Policy 33(4):593-615. doi 10.1177/0261218313483488

with C. Bell (2013) 'Women and Constitutional Debates: engendering visions of a new Scotland', in G. Hassan and J. Mitchell (eds) After Independence. Birlinn Press.  

with M. Kenny (2013) 'When is Contagion not very contagious? Dynamics of Women's Political Representation in Scotland', Parliamentary Affairs.Published online in advance of print issue doi10.1093/pa/gss109

with P.Meier and K. Celis (2013) 'Social Movement Organizations and Changing State Architectures: Comparing Women's Movement Organizing in Flanders and Scotland', Publius:The Journal of Federalism. 43 (1): 46-67

Current Teaching

Fiona teaches in the broad areas of feminist politics, Scottish and British politics, global politics, and approaches to the study of politics. She is on research leave in 2018-19. She usually contributes to:

  • PLIT10075 Global Politics of Sex and Gender  (Honours)  (convenor Dr Claire Duncanson) 
  • PGSP11440 Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics (Masters)(convenor Dr Claire Duncanson)

 GPSG has been nominated for EUSA teaching awards every year since its inception in 2009-10. GPSG students won the UK PSA Women and Politics undergraduate essay competition in 2010, 2013 and 2017, and were runners-up in 2016.

Fiona designed the framework and contributed to the Honours course SPS in Practice (convenor Dr Meryl Kenny), in which staff  and Senior Honours students co-designed the new introductory gender course Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World. SPS in Practice won Best Course  and was runner-up in the Innovative Assessment category in the 2015-16 EUSA Teaching Awards .

PhD Supervision

Fiona is an enthusiastic and experienced supervisor. She is able to offer PhD supervision in most areas relating to gender and politics (international, national and local), gender and public policy, and British and Scottish politics. Fiona particularly welcomes prospective students with interests in feminist and institutionalist approaches to the study of gender and politics, gender and multi-level governance, and in aspects of post-devolution gender politics in UK. 

Current PhD projects and supervisees

'A Feminist critique of Corporate Responsibility Interventions'. Tatiana Cary (Social Policy, Chrystal Macmillan Scholarship). Co-supervisor.

'UNSCR 1325 and UN Operations in Haiti'. Annelize Vaz (Politics and IR). Co-supervisor. 

Recent doctoral supervisees

'Gender and the Cadre System: Recruitment and  the CCP's Central Committees'. Peach Lin ( Visiting PhD student, Xiamen University).

'The Gendered logics of Party Organisation". Nuria Alcaraz (Visiting PhD student, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)

'No Country for Losers? Gender, (in)equality, and the discursive construction of subjects and values in Polish politics'. Barbara Gaweda (PIR, SPSS studentship) (Awarded 2017).

'Be polite, Be professional, Be prepared to kill': Counterinsurgency, Masculinity and British Military Doctrine. Hilary Cornish (PIR, ESRC studentship) (Awarded 2015).

The Politics of Gender Quotas: What Accounts for the relative success of gender quotas in the first Southern Sudanese Elections? Angelina Mattijo-Bazugba (Social Policy, SPSS scholarship) (Awarded 2014).

The virtues of the self: ethics and the critique of feminist identity politics. Elena Pollot (PIR, ESRC studentship) (Awarded 2013)

'A wheel within a wheel': Adoption and implementation of Gender Budgeting in the sub-state governments of Scotland, Euskadi, and Andalucia. Angela O'Hagen (Glasgow Caledonian University). (Awarded 2013)

Gender Mainstreaming as a knowledge process: towards an understanding of perpetuation and change in gender blindness and gender bias. Rosalind Cavaghan (PIR, ESRC studentship) (awarded 2012). * winner of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) Gender & Politics PhD Award 2013

Gendered Institutional Change in South Africa: The Case of the State Security Sector. Lara de Klerk (African Studies, Commonwealth studentship) (awarded 2011).

Agents and Institutions: Donald Dewar and the Politics of Devolution. Andrew McFadyen (PIR) (awarded 2011). 

What happens to the Radical Potential of Gender Mainstreaming? Implementation and Institutionalisation in Gendered Organisations. Amanda Wittman (PIR, SORSAS/HSSS scholarship) (awarded 2010).

Gendering Institutions: The Political Recruitment of Women in Post-Devolution Scotland. Meryl Kenny (PIR, SORSAS/CHSS studentship) (awarded 2009).* winner of the PSA Arthur McDougall Fund Prize 2009 for the best PhD on elections, electoral systems or representation.  

Forces for Good? British Military Masculinities on Peace Support Operations. Claire Duncanson (PIR, ESRC studentship) (awarded 2008).

Understanding Democratic Engagement at the Micro-Level: Communication, Participation and Representation. Peter Moug (PIR, ESRC studentship) (awarded 2008).

Mainstreaming equality at the Scottish Executive: the discursive construction of policy. Katherine Bilton (PIR, ESRC studentship) (awarded 2005).

Organising Against a Violent Society: Women's Anti Violence Organisations in Sweden and the UK. Lesley McMillan (Sociology, ESRC studentship) (awarded 2003).

Links to Publications

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Topics interested in supervising

I welcome proposals on most topics in the fields of women & politics, and gender and political institutions. I am particularly interested in the gendering effects of political institutions, gender and institutional innovation (such as quotas, gender mainstreaming, "gender-equal" constitutions etc) at global, national and local levels; women's political representation, and gender and devolution in the UK.

If you are interested in being supervised by Fiona Mackay, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Politics; MSc (R) Politics