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Gender equality in the UK: Is reflexive and responsive legislation the way forward?

Conley, Hazel


Hazel Conley
Professor in Human Resource Management


Carola Bauschke-Urban

Ingrid Jungwirth


This chapter examines an experiment with different approaches to the law usually referred to as responsive and reflexive legislation. It outlines the theoretical underpinning of responsive legislation (Nonet and Selznik, 1979/2001) and its later development into reflexive legislation (Teubner, 1983) before identifying how these theories were implemented in equality law in the UK, particularly in relation to equality between women and men and the production of public services. The chapter provides an example of how the concepts of responsive and reflexive legislation were used to rethink gender equality legislation to overcome the limitations of traditional anti-discrimination legislative approaches by imposing a statutory gender equality duty (GED) on public authorities in 2007. The chapter continues by providing an empirical analysis of the power of responsive and reflexive legislation to facilitate greater participation of civil society groups in bringing about behavioural change in organisations and the political resistance to these changes. The conclusions argue that, whilst responsive legislation does represent a potentially powerful tool for women’s and other civil society groups seeking equality, the alignment of legislative innovation and political will identified as necessary for success by Nonet and Selznick (199/27001) is, as yet, missing in the UK.


Conley, H. (2016). Gender equality in the UK: Is reflexive and responsive legislation the way forward?. In C. Bauschke-Urban, & I. Jungwirth (Eds.), Gender and Diversity Studies in European PerspectivesVerlag Barbara Budrich

Acceptance Date Jan 8, 2016
Publication Date Oct 31, 2016
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title Gender and Diversity Studies in European Perspectives
ISBN 9783847405498
Keywords gender equality, responsive legislation
Publisher URL