Gender quotas have become an increasingly prominent solution in recent years to the underrepresentation of women in electoral politics. As research on these policies has grown, scholars have primarily sought to explain how and why quotas are adopted and, more recently, why some quota policies are more effective than others in facilitating women's access to political office. Most studies, however, also consider—often in a less systematic fashion—the normative aspects of quota reform, usually by detailing the various objections leveled against gender quotas and their impact on efforts to adopt and implement quota measures. Integrating insights from a wide range of case studies, I outline these arguments but note that quotas also generate a host of positive implications that remain largely undertheorized in this literature. I observe, further, that more and more countries are adopting gender quotas despite these well-versed normative objections. These developments indicate greater scope for political initiatives to increase women's representation—despite assumed social and economic “prerequisites” for change—and, indeed, signal a broader shift in international norms in support of projects to promote gender-balanced decision making. One of the few countries seemingly unaffected by these global trends is the United States, where proposals for gender quotas have simply not entered into the realm of public debate. After offering several possible explanations for this state of affairs, I draw on this case to emphasize the pivotal role of politics in opening and closing opportunities to pursue gender quotas, as well as to point to a new set of questions for future research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Sociology and Political Science