During the Covid-19 emergency, recent progress in the race for gender equality slowed down as a consequence of mitigation measures such as lockdowns and school closures. In such a context, women have been largely under-represented in decision-making concerning the health crisis and the recovery effort. This dynamic complements growing pressure from women interest groups against the scarce attention to gendered concerns in the fight against the pandemic. As a result, the outbreak and its response raise the question of the importance of women’s representation for the saliency of policies directly supporting their empowerment. The parliamentary debate on the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) offers a well-defined case for assessing the relevance of substantive representation in Italy within the Covid-19 recovery. Position papers and proposals from women interest groups vocally campaigning for parity offer the benchmark against which we code over 200 parliamentary speeches for their gendered content. The analysis compares the different prevalence of gendered concerns across female and male Members of the Parliament – accounting for ideological differences. We argue that representation matters for gender empowerment policies, as female policymakers within the parliament, in partnership with women interest groups outside the forum, are those primarily raising such concerns in the making of the Italian NRRP. The paper contributes to the extant literature on women representation by evidencing a stark gender gap in the policies included in the final version of the plan, ultimately leading to a missed opportunity for a more equal society.
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