Introduction to Gender Quotas
Introduction to Gender Quotas
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter introduces quotas as a global phenomenon. It begins by presenting an overview of the three main types of quota policies: reserved seats, party quotas, and legislative quotas. These are found in all major world regions in countries with a broad range of institutional, social, economic, and cultural characteristics. At the same time, the mere advent of gender quotas has not resulted in uniform increases in the percentage of women in parliament worldwide: some countries have witnessed dramatic increases, while others have seen more modest changes or even setbacks in the number of women elected to national assemblies. The chapter reviews accounts for these patterns given in the existing literature, but notes their limits in explaining all instances of quota adoption and implementation. It then makes a case for synthesizing these various explanations to elaborate a more general framework for analyzing the origins and impact of gender quota policies.
Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in patterns of political representation. On the one hand, political transformations around the world have stimulated reflection on questions of institutional and constitutional design. In Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa, reformers have sought to devise new political arrangements in light of democratic transition, economic crisis, and post‐conflict reconstruction. In Western Europe, pressures for devolution have culminated in the creation of new regional bodies which, along with increased European integration, have forced governments to recognize emerging systems of multilevel governance. On the other hand, new scholarship has challenged the dominant conventions of liberal democracy by rethinking the means and ends of the representative process. Rather than viewing politics as a neutral arena in which all citizens play an equal role, these studies argue that liberal political arrangements create systematic distortions in public policies, as well as the potential for equal political engagement. Alternatives they propose include civic republicanism, deliberative democracy, and multiculturalism, all of which promote a notion of equality in a context of difference.
These developments, both empirical and theoretical, have led to various innovations in political participation. The most common reforms, from a global perspective, have been provisions for the increased representation of women. Most of these provisions take the form of quota policies aimed at increasing the selection and election of female candidates to political office. The origins of many of these policies can be traced back to the United Nations' (UN) Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995. The resulting Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, signed unanimously by all 189 member states, called on governments to take measures to ensure women's equal access and full participation in power structures and decision‐making, as well as to increase women's capacity to participate in decision‐making and leadership (United Nations 1995). Although some quotas appeared before this date, the importance of this event can be seen in patterns of quota adoption around the world. (p.4) Between 1930 and 1980, only ten countries established quota provisions, followed by twelve states in the 1980s. Over the course of the 1990s, however, quotas appeared in more than fifty countries, which have been joined by nearly forty more since the year 2000. As a result, quotas now exist in more than one hundred countries around the world, but more than three‐quarters of these measures have been passed within the last fifteen years.
In line with these developments, research on gender quotas has become one of the fastest growing subfields of research on women and politics. Most of this work focuses on single countries, or, at most, the diffusion of quotas within a single world region. It thus tends to offer explanations of this phenomenon in relation to dynamics at work within a small number of cases. When juxtaposed, however, these findings often contradict or talk past one another (Krook 2007). This indicates that efforts to generalize based on the experiences of individual countries may be limited in their ability to explain all instances of quota reform. Further, the rapid diffusion of quota provisions implies that these debates may be linked, in the sense that debates in one case may shape how quotas reach the agenda and are formulated in other countries around the world. Alternatively, multiple cases may be swayed by similar international and transnational influences, explaining patterns in the timing and nature of quota proposals. Together, these possibilities suggest that a broader comparative lens may be more appropriate for analyzing gender quotas, both individually and as a group.
Seeking to expand the scope of investigation, this book takes a global perspective to explore the various dynamics at work across the wider universe of quota campaigns and debates. The goal is to use this lens to develop a common framework for understanding the origins and impact of gender quotas, both to produce more cumulative research and to design more effective quota strategies and measures. Comparative work is crucial because an initial glance at quota measures around the world reveals no clear patterns with regard to the source or outcomes of quota policies. Countries with quotas are found in all major regions and have a broad range of institutional, social, economic, and cultural characteristics. Various coalitions of actors may thus pursue quota reforms for any number of different reasons. At the same time, the mere advent of gender quotas has not resulted in uniform increases in the percentage of women in parliament worldwide. Rather, some countries have seen dramatic increases following the adoption of new quota regulations, while others have (p.5) witnessed more modest changes or even setbacks in the number of women elected to national assemblies. These variations suggest that specific quota provisions, while ostensibly similar, may in fact entail distinct processes of political reform.
The book aims to untangle these dynamics in a theory‐building exercise organized around two sets of questions. First, why are quotas adopted? Which actors are involved in quota campaigns, and why do they support or oppose quota measures? Second, what impact do quotas have on existing patterns of representation? Are these provisions sufficient for bringing more women into politics? Or, do their effects depend on other features of the broader political context? The framework developed via this approach identifies a range of actors, strategies, and contexts relevant to quota reform, and as such, offers a template for engaging in single and comparative case studies of quota policies. The utility of these elements is then illustrated through paired comparisons of the origins and impact of quotas in Pakistan and India, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK), and Argentina and France.
The analysis has several broad implications for the study of politics and efforts to improve women's status around the globe. In particular, the spread of quotas to all world regions signals a major shift in approach from previous patterns of political incorporation, which did not recognize—and, indeed, often explicitly rejected—“women” as a category deserving political representation. Future research on elections and legislatures will thus need to take gender quotas into account, both empirically and theoretically, when investigating political campaigns, candidate selection, and legislative behavior. By the same token the large‐scale adoption of gender quotas by national parliaments, as well as individual political parties, raises important challenges for democratic theory and practice, which have often tended to ignore the role of women and gender, despite the fact that women form more than half the population worldwide. More specifically, the diffusion and effects of quotas reveal that women's presence in political assemblies does not simply reflect their broader social and economic status. Rather, measures to increase women's representation may appear even in the absence of previously assumed social and economic prerequisites. In contrast, the adoption and implementation of quotas highlights the recruitment practices of political elites, indicating that political actors and dynamics, not vague forces of development, are the central factor producing and mitigating inequalities in representation.
The growing literature on gender quotas presents a variety of typologies for classifying different kinds of quota measures. Most scholars recognize three basic types: reserved seats, party quotas, and legislative quotas (Krook 2005; Norris 2004). However, some exclude reserved seats on the grounds that these provisions do not influence candidate nomination processes, but rather make specific guarantees as to who may accede to political office (Dahlerup 2006a). Others divide party quotas into two further types: aspirant quotas, which affect preselection processes by establishing that only women may be considered as nominees, and candidate quotas, which require that parties select a particular proportion of women among their final lists of candidates (Matland 2006). Still others draw distinctions between various kinds of legislative quotas, separating out those quotas instituted through changes to the electoral law from those secured through constitutional reforms (Dahlerup 2007). Despite these various typologies, this book retains a focus on reserved seats, party quotas, and legislative quotas based on the fact that these policies share similar concerns to increase the numbers of women elected to political office, despite their attention to distinct aspects of the selection process. Further, patterns in the timing of their adoption, as well as where particular kinds of quotas appear, suggest that choices to pursue one type of measure over another may stem from country-, region-, and situation‐specific “repertoires” of female representation, rather than objective evaluations as to where best to intervene in candidate selection processes.
Reserved seats appear primarily in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (Krook 2004). These measures first emerged in the 1930s, and, indeed, were the main type of quota adopted through the 1970s. Since 2000, however, a new wave of these provisions have been passed in a number of countries that otherwise have had very low levels of female representation. These policies are often established through reforms to the constitution—and occasionally the electoral law—that create separate electoral rolls for women, designate separate districts for female candidates, or distribute seats for women based on each party's proportion of the popular vote. Reserved seats differ from party and legislative quotas in that they mandate a minimum number of (p.7) female legislators, rather than simply a percentage of women among political candidates. In so doing they revise aspects of the electoral system in ways that guarantee the election of women.
These measures often provide for low levels of female representation, usually between 1 percent and 10 percent of all elected representatives. However, since 2000 a number of countries have instituted much larger provisions of 30 percent.1 In some instances, reserved seats apply to single‐member districts reserved for women, in which only women may run for election (Nanivadekar 2006). In others, they are allocated in multimember districts to the designated number of women who win the most votes (Norris 2006). In yet others, women are selected to these seats by members of the national parliament several weeks after the general elections (Goetz and Hassim 2003). As such these policies confer varying degrees of dependence between the women elected to these seats and the parties and elected officials who make their election possible.
Party quotas are the most common type of gender quota (see appendix). They were first adopted in the early 1970s by a limited number of socialist and social democratic parties in Western Europe. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, they appeared in green parties, social democratic parties, and even some conservative parties more broadly across Western Europe, as well as in a diverse array of political parties in other regions around the world. In some countries they exist alongside the presence of other types of quotas to promote women's representation (Meier 2004; Araújo and García Quesada 2006). At their most basic, party quotas are measures that are adopted voluntarily by individual parties that commit the party to aim for a certain proportion of women among its candidates to political office. In this sense, they alter party practices by setting out new criteria for candidate selection that require elites to recognize existing biases and consider alternative spheres of political recruitment (Krook 2005; cf. Lovenduski and Norris 1993).
These policies typically mandate that women constitute between 25 percent and 50 percent of parties' electoral slates. However, the particular phrasing of this requirement varies: some policies identify women as the group to be promoted by the quota (Durrieu 1999; Goetz and Hassim 2003; Valiente 2005), while others set out a more gender‐neutral formulation, specifying a minimum representation for (p.8) “each sex” or establishing that “neither sex” can account for more than a particular proportion of a party's candidates (Freidenvall, Dahlerup, and Skjeie 2006; Guadagnini 2005). Parties implement these measures in a number of ways. In countries with proportional representation (PR) electoral systems, party quotas govern the composition of party lists. While some parties apply the quota to the list as a whole, others direct it to the number of seats on the list that they anticipate winning in the next elections. In countries with majoritarian systems, party quotas are often directed at a collection of single‐member districts. This may entail nominating a proportion of women across all the districts where the party is running candidates (Opello 2006). Alternatively, the policy may apply to a designated set of seats that the party expects to win; for example, seats where one of the party's incumbents is stepping down, or seats that the party expects to capture in the next round of elections (Campbell, Childs, and Lovenduski 2006; Russell 2005).
Legislative quotas tend to be found in developing countries, especially Latin America, and post‐conflict societies, primarily in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeastern Europe (Krook 2004). These patterns are explained in part by the fact that legislative quotas are the newest kind of quota policy, appearing first only in the 1990s, at a time when issues of women's representation reached the agenda of many international organizations and transnational non‐governmental organizations (NGOs). Enacted through reforms to electoral laws and sometimes constitutions, legislative quotas are similar to party quotas in that they address party selection processes, but differ in that they are passed by national parliaments to require that all parties nominate a certain proportion of female candidates. As such, they are mandatory provisions that apply to all political groupings, rather than only those that choose to adopt quotas. In the course of setting these requirements, these policies take important steps to legitimize positive action and recognize “gender” as a political identity by altering the basic meanings of equality and representation that inform candidate selection processes.
Similar to party quotas, legislative quotas call for women to form between 25 percent and 50 percent of all candidates. However, they involve broader processes of reform focused on changing the language contained in constitutions and electoral laws, rather than the content (p.9) of individual party statutes. As such, their passage usually requires some degree of cross‐partisan agreement; indeed, most legislative quotas are approved nearly unanimously by legislators representing parties from across the political spectrum. The language contained in these measures is typically gender‐neutral, speaking of women and men together or making reference to the “underrepresented sex.” All the same, these provisions vary in terms of how strictly their goals are articulated: some speak vaguely about “facilitating access” (Giraud and Jenson 2001), while others offer more concrete prescriptions regarding the selection and placement of female candidates (Jones 2004; Meier 2005). Like party quotas, legislative quotas are implemented in different ways depending on the electoral system, applying alternatively to party lists (Meier 2004) or to a broader group of single‐member districts (Murray 2004). However, given their status as law, a distinctive feature of legislative quotas is that they usually contain sanctions for noncompliance and are subject to some degree of oversight from external bodies (Baldez 2004; Jones 1998).
Gender Quota Adoption
Gender quotas thus take a number of different forms in countries around the world. To explain their adoption, studies of cases around the world offer four main accounts. The first is that women mobilize for quotas, usually when women's groups come to realize that quotas are an effective—and perhaps the only—means for increasing women's political representation. These women may include women's organizations inside political parties, women's movements in civil society, women's groups in other countries, and even individual women close to powerful men (Bruhn 2003; Kittilson 2006). In all of these instances, women pursue quotas for both normative and pragmatic reasons. They believe that there should be more women in politics in order to achieve justice, promote women's interests, and make use of women's resources for the good of society (Phillips 1995). However, in the absence of any natural trend toward change, they acknowledge that this is likely to be achieved only through specific, targeted actions to promote female candidates (cf. Krook 2006a).
A second common explanation is that political elites adopt quotas for strategic reasons, generally related to competition with other parties. Various case studies suggest, for example, that party elites often adopt quotas when one of their rivals adopts them (Caul 2001; (p.10) Meier 2004). This concern may be heightened if the party is seeking to overcome a long period in opposition or a dramatic decrease in popularity. In other contexts, elites view quotas as a way to demonstrate a degree of commitment to women without actually intending to alter existing patterns of inequality (Htun and Jones 2002; Mossuz‐Lavau 1998). Alternatively, they treat quotas as a convenient means to promote other ends, like maintaining control over rivals within or outside the party (Chowdhury 2002). If these motives are correct, the adoption of quotas may be less about empowering women in politics and more about how quotas fit in—perhaps serendipitously—with various other struggles among political elites.
A third view is that quotas are adopted when they mesh with existing or emerging notions of equality and representation. Evidence indicates that gender quotas are compatible in distinct ways with a number of normative frameworks. Some scholars view quota adoption as consistent with ideas about equality and fair access. They point out that left‐wing parties are generally more open to measures such as quotas because these match with their more general goals of social equality (Hassim 2002; Opello 2006). Others interpret quotas as a method to recognize difference and the need for proportional representation. According to this view, quotas for women can be seen as a logical extension of guarantees given to other groups based on linguistic, religious, racial, and other cleavages (Inhetveen 1999; Meier 2000). A final observation is that quotas tend to emerge during periods of democratic innovation. In these countries, quotas may be seen as a way to establish the legitimacy of the new political system during democratic transition or the creation of new democratic institutions (Bauer and Britton 2006). Taken together, these arguments analyze quotas in relation to their “fit” with features of the political context; they do not reflect principled concerns to empower women or pragmatic strategies to win or maintain power.
A fourth explanation is that quotas are supported by international norms and spread through transnational sharing. During the last ten years, a variety of international organizations—including the UN, the Socialist International, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Commonwealth, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and the Organization of American States—have issued declarations recommending that all member‐states aim for 30 percent women in all political bodies.2 These norms shape national quota debates in at least four ways (Krook 2006b). International imposition occurs in cases where international actors are directly involved in quota adoption, either by directly applying quotas when devising electoral regulations or by compelling national leaders to do so (p.11) themselves. Transnational emulation takes place in cases where local women's movements and transnational NGOs share information on quota strategies across national borders. International tipping appears in cases where international events provide new sources of leverage in national debates, shifting the balance in favor of local and transnational actors pressing for quota adoption. International blockage, finally, happens in cases where international actors seek to prevent the adoption of gender quotas, despite mobilization by local women's groups and transnational NGOs in favor of these policies.
Gender Quota Implementation
Quota measures are diverse, and, thus, differences in their impact are to be expected. Yet, pinpointing why some quotas are more effective than others is a complicated task: in addition to features of specific quota policies, which affect their likelihood of being implemented, quotas are introduced when variations already exist in the percentage of women in national parliaments. Cross‐national variations are thus the combined result of quotas, where they are present, and other factors that were likely at work before quotas were established. As a result, quotas do not simply lead to gains proportional to the quota policy, but also interact, both positively and negatively, with various features of the broader political context.
Three broad explanations have been offered to untangle these effects. The first links variations in quota implementation to details of quota measures themselves. Some studies connect quota impact to the type of measure involved. Although most agree that reserved seats generally produce small changes in the numbers of women elected, some claim that party quotas are more effective than other types of quotas because they are voluntary measures, adopted from concerns about electoral advantage. Others insist that legislative quotas have more force because they bind all parties, not simply those that choose to adopt quotas, and are enforced by state bureaucracies and the courts, rather than party leaders (Jones 1998; Norris 2006). More recent work delves deeper into variations within and across types to understand why specific quotas are more or less effective in achieving changes in women's representation. It argues that the success or failure of quotas stems from their wording (Htun 2002), requirements (Chama 2001; Meier 2004), sanctions (Murray 2004; Schmidt and Saunders 2004), and perceived legitimacy (Yoon 2001), all of which may have intended and unintended effects.
(p.12) A second account relates quota impact to the “fit” between quota measures and other political institutions. Most research in this vein focuses on characteristics of the electoral system, examining how electoral rules influence quota effects. It observes that these policies have the greatest impact in PR electoral systems with closed lists and high district magnitudes (Caul 1999; Htun and Jones 2002), although it also identifies idiosyncratic features of particular electoral systems that negatively affect quota implementation (Htun 2002). Other studies consider characteristics of the party system, as well as the features of parties themselves, to discern dynamics that may aid or subvert quota implementation. They argue that quotas are more likely to have an impact in party systems where several parties coexist and larger parties respond to policy innovations initiated by smaller parties, as well as in parties with left‐wing ideologies where the party leadership is better able to enforce party or national regulations (Caul 1999; Davidson‐Schmich 2006). Still others note higher rates of implementation across all parties in countries where the political culture emphasizes sexual difference and group representation, and lower rates of compliance in countries where it stresses sexual equality and individual representation (Inhetveen 1999; Meier 2000).
A third explanation outlines the actors who support and oppose quotas and their respective roles vis-à-vis quota implementation. Much of this literature targets party elites as the group most directly responsible for variations in the success or failure of quotas, since the effective application of quotas largely hinges around elites' willingness to recruit female candidates. Most of these accounts expose the ways in which elites seek to mitigate quota impact through passive refusal to enforce quotas to more active measures to subvert their intended effects (Araújo 2003; Costa Benavides 2003). Many also mention other actors who may play a direct or indirect role in enforcing quota provisions, including women's organizations inside and outside political parties (Durrieu 1999; Sainsbury 1993), national and international courts (Chama 2001; Jones 2004), and ordinary citizens (Baldez 2004; Kolinsky 1991), all of whom may monitor party compliance with quota measures in ways that lead elites to ignore or honor—and possibly even exceed—quota requirements.
Analyzing Gender Quotas
Existing research thus presents four answers as to who supports quotas and why these policies are adopted, related to the mobilization of (p.13) women's groups, the calculations of political elites, the links between quotas and prevailing political norms, and the convictions of international organizations and transnational networks. It also offers three reasons for variations in quota effects, stemming from the features of particular quota measures, their “fit” with institutional frameworks, and their support among actors in positions to guarantee or undermine quota effects. Despite the substantial evidence behind these accounts, a more comprehensive review reveals that while these arguments are supported by many case studies, they are often contradicted in important ways by others (Krook 2007). Because these explanations emerge largely from the analysis of single cases, these patterns raise two possibilities: (1) some accounts may characterize only some countries, and (2) some may tell only part of a story that engages several of these narratives.
Dynamics such as these are difficult to study using traditional approaches in political science, which tend to gravitate toward one of two poles: large-n statistical analyses or small-n case studies. The former use quantitative methods to analyze many cases, establish relations between variables, and infer causality from statistical significance. The latter apply qualitative techniques to focus on a few cases, situate variables in the context of the whole, and detect causality through process‐tracing (Brady and Collier 2004; Mahoney and Goertz 2006). Despite these differences, conventional ways of employing these methods share two core assumptions: causal homogeneity, the notion that factors work the same way in all cases, and causal competition, the belief that variables exert independent effects on outcomes (Ragin 1987). Although several central contributions in qualitative political science depart from this approach (Moore 1966; Katznelson 1997), most qualitative scholars of comparative politics draw heavily on John Stuart Mills's (1874) methods of agreement and difference in developing tenets of research design. The basic intuition behind the method of difference, the one most widely used in political science (cf. King, Keohane, and Verba 1994), is that cases be matched on all attributes but one and then outcomes examined to see whether that difference led to a distinct outcome; if so, the element can be credited as the cause of that outcome.
Recent innovations in comparative methods criticize these conventional perspectives. Although these scholars are especially interested in developing techniques for analyzing medium-n populations (Ragin 1987; Ragin 2000), they are primarily joined by a desire to explore the potential for causal heterogeneity, the possibility that variables may (p.14) not work the same way in all instances, and causal combination, the idea that the effects of particular factors may depend on the presence or absence of other conditions (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003; Ragin 2000). As such, the goal of this work is often to formalize comparisons in a manner that incorporates information from a larger sample but still retains the integrity of individual cases, thus achieving a middle ground between covering laws and idiographic descriptions. Adopting these assumptions, however, has crucial implications for political analysis. Recognizing causal heterogeneity opens up the potential for equifinality, the idea that there may be multiple paths to the same outcome, while acknowledging causal combination requires that analysts map and evaluate various possible configurations of causal conditions. These perspectives are less well‐known, but there are good reasons to believe that they will provide greater leverage than traditional approaches in explaining the origins and effects of quotas around the globe. As already noted, existing research offers various accounts as to why quotas are adopted, involving multiple actors and motivations coming together in complex and even contradictory ways, as well as diverse intuitions as to why some quotas are more successful than others, producing breakthroughs in distinct countries despite being designed along a variety of different lines. The analysis in this book thus takes advantage of these novel methodological tools to theorize paths to quota reform and analyze configurations of causal conditions, both systematically and comparatively, in careful dialogue with evidence from around the world.
Overview of the Book
Studies of gender quotas have quickly become a major new area of research on women and politics. Given the relative newness of this phenomenon, most work to date has sought to document patterns in the adoption and implementation of quotas in countries around the world. The aim of this book is to build on these studies in order to move this literature forward, as well as facilitate the emergence of new quota campaigns and the design of more effective quota policies. To this end, it takes a global perspective to synthesize these explanations and elaborate a more general framework for analyzing the origins and impact of quota policies. The tools derived from this theory‐building exercise are then used to investigate the origins and effects of reserved seats in Pakistan and India, party quotas in Sweden and the UK, and legislative quotas in Argentina and France.
(p.15) Chapter 2 addresses quota adoption by, first, reviewing the four existing explanations and, second, considering the evidence for and against each account. It suggests that each argument may characterize only some cases, at the same time that some may tell only part of a larger story that engages several of these narratives. To devise a more general framework, the chapter disaggregates these explanations into their component parts to identify three sets of actors and seven possible motivations for quota reform.
Chapter 3 examines quota implementation using a similar method. After elaborating and evaluating the three accounts often presented in the literature, it stresses the need to relate these reforms to existing dynamics of candidate selection and makes a case for reconciling the three narratives to explore how structures, practices, and norms might work together to produce the effects of quota policies. It sketches an alternative model of candidate selection based on three types of gendered institutions and argues that each category of gender quota attempts to reform a different kind of political institution.
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 then undertake paired comparisons of six cases of quota reform. The cases were selected according to two criteria. First, in all of the chosen cases, multiple attempts at quota reform have taken place. This enables closer examination of iterated sequences of reform and their relation to changing patterns of political representation over time. Second, within each pair, one country has witnessed dramatic shifts following the implementation of quota policies, while the other has seen little change or even stagnation in the numbers of women elected. The goal of each comparison is to assess the role of quotas by exploring the actors, motivations, and contexts that are relevant to the origins, adoption, and implementation of each measure, drawing on various primary and secondary sources. Crucially, this analysis focuses on shifts in configurations of conditions, meaning that it is not necessary to match the cases on all attributes minus one; rather, differences across the cases are incorporated into the comparison by virtue of the configurations themselves.
Chapter 4 examines campaigns for reserved seats in Pakistan and India. Despite a common colonial history, opposite approaches were taken with regard to reserved seats for women following independence. In Pakistan, regimes of all types reserved seats for women from the early 1950s until the late 1980s, with a new round of reforms being introduced in 2002. In India, reservations for women were not on the agenda until the late 1980s, when they were established in various states. This led to proposals in the early 1990s to set aside seats for (p.16) women in local government through constitutional reform. Although these provisions were quickly passed, efforts to extend these provisions to the national parliament have failed, despite being introduced in every legislative session since the mid-1990s. As a result of these distinct developments, women occupy 23 percent of the seats in parliament in Pakistan, but only 9 percent of these seats in India (Inter‐Parliamentary Union 2008a).
Chapter 5 engages in a similar examination of campaigns for party quotas in Sweden and the UK. Before quotas were adopted, both countries had relatively similar levels of female representation. By 2008, however, women constituted 47 percent of members of parliament (MPs) in Sweden but only 20 percent of MPs in the UK (Inter‐Parliamentary Union 2008a). In Sweden, advocates initially pressed parties to adopt softer recommendations and targets in the 1970s and 1980s. In the course of the 1990s, they gradually radicalized their demands and eventually gained commitments from most parties to alternate between women and men on their candidate lists. In the UK, the Labour Party adopted a quota in the early 1990s, which an industrial tribunal later declared illegal on the grounds that it violated the terms of the country's Sex Discrimination Act. After various attempts to work within a context of substantial legal ambiguity, MPs eventually reformed this act to allow—but not require—parties to pursue positive action in candidate selection, leading to important variations among parties in terms of their recruitment of women.
Chapter 6 explores campaigns for legislative quotas in Argentina and France. In Argentina, a quota law was adopted in the early 1990s that required all parties to nominate 30 percent women. Although this provision amended only the electoral code and did not specify how the quota would be implemented and monitored, by the late 2000s the policy had resulted in the election of 40 percent women (Inter‐Parliamentary Union 2008a). In France, by contrast, legislators altered both the constitution and the electoral law to mandate that parties nominate equal numbers of women and men, with specific regulations as to how quotas would be applied in various kinds of elections and sanctions would be imposed on parties that did not meet these requirements. Despite these apparently radical reforms, the representation of women increased only incrementally to 12 percent and then 19 percent (Inter‐Parliamentary Union 2008a), still only barely approximating the world average of 18 percent (Inter‐Parliamentary Union 2008b).
(p.17) Chapter 7 presents an overview of the theoretical and empirical findings of the book. After reviewing the framework, as well as the insights generated by the paired comparisons, the chapter takes this discussion one step further by juxtaposing trends across the case studies as a whole. It concludes with six main observations regarding quota campaigns. In terms of actors, a global lens indicates that (1) the key actors in quota debates vary widely across countries, pursuing quota reform for both feminist and nonfeminist reasons, and (2) the actors that are most often overlooked are international organizations and transnational networks. When it comes to strategies, (3) normative issues are a central concern in quota debates, but (4) strategic motivations often play a significant role in getting quotas on the political agenda. In terms of context, (5) the impact of quotas depends on how they interact with elements of the political environment, whose various effects must be disentangled by tracing changes in the configurations of these conditions over time. Crucially, however, given the central importance of causal combination and the possibility of multiple paths to the same outcome, (6) there are limits to prediction and prescription when it comes to quota adoption and implementation. Yet, these insights are not intended as the final word on quotas: in the spirit of theory‐building, they are offered rather as a means for taking the first steps toward developing more cumulative research on strategies to increase women's political representation worldwide. (p.18)
(1.) In the early 1990s, some countries began to establish 30 percent quotas for women in local government.
(2.) It is not known where the 30 percent figure in fact originates, but one possibility is that it is linked to the concept of a ‘critical mass,’ a theory used in some research on women's substantive representation which speculates that women need to form a large minority of all legislators before they can make a difference in public policy (cf. Childs and Krook 2006).