Why Are Gender Quotas Adopted? Party Pragmatism and Parity in France

By Murray, Rainbow; Krook, Mona Lena et al. | Political Research Quarterly, September 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Why Are Gender Quotas Adopted? Party Pragmatism and Parity in France


Murray, Rainbow, Krook, Mona Lena, Opello, Katherine A. R., Political Research Quarterly


Abstract

The passage of electoral gender quotas raises questions about why male elites would support policies that seemingly go against their self-interests. Recent work on France suggests that quota adoption is self-interested because male legislators benefit from alleged voter bias against female candidates. This article evaluates this explanation as a means for understanding quota adoption globally. It argues that the key actors are not legislators but political parties. Developing an alternative causal story centered on "party pragmatism," it finds that decisions to introduce quotas are rational and consistent once a range of incentives-ideological, electoral, and strategic-are taken into account.

Keywords

comparative politics, elections and voting behavior, political organizations and parties, women and politics

In recent years, gender quotas regulating the candidate selection process have been adopted in more than one hundred countries. Although varied in format, these policies stipulate that women constitute a minimum proportion of candidates and/or representatives. Quotas have been justified on the grounds that women constitute a small minority of elected officials-on average, only 19 percent of parliamentarians worldwide (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2011). Strikingly, the vast majority of these measures have been passed nearly unanimously by male-dominated political parties and legislatures. Alongside their global diffusion, this fact implies widespread consensus behind the goal of increasing women's representation. Yet given women's low numbers, implementing quotas necessitates a reduction in the proportion of men. This raises the question: why would party elites and legislators-who are overwhelmingly male-support a policy that appears to go against their own self-interests?

Existing research on gender quotas offers three primary explanations. One highlights electoral incentives, suggesting that parties tend to pursue quotas when seeking to capture women's votes (Davidson-Schmich 2006; Kittilson 2006; Meier 2004). A second emphasizes ideological incentives, attributing adoption to congruencies between quotas and principles informing party and national models of inclusion (Krook, Lovenduski, and Squires 2009; Meier 2000; Opello 2006). A final set of arguments points to strategic incentives, contending that elites support quotas to sustain an existing regime (Howard-Merriam 1990), consolidate control over rivals (Chowdhury 2002), and respond to international pressures (Krook 2006). These accounts offer important insights into motivations behind quota policies. However, all three explanations remain at the macro level: they address influences and determinants but do not closely explore actual decisionmaking processes. The result is that relatively little is known about how these incentives have been translated more concretely into action.

An interesting advance in this regard is a recent analysis by Guillaume R. Fréchette, François Maniquet, and Massimo Morelli (2008; hereafter FMM). In an article on France, they attempt to explain these processes at the micro level, using game theory to model the calculations of individual legislators leading to reform. Their answer is simple: quota adoption is in male legislators' self-interest. While their finding is counterintuitive, FMM propose that the inducement to adopt quotas emerges from a "male advantage" in French elections, whereby women are easier to defeat than men. According to this logic, male incumbents stand a greater chance of being reelected if they face a female challenger. This prospect of reelection, FMM suggest, provided a rational incentive to incumbents to support a parity law, which would boost their chances of facing a female opponent. However, to ensure that they would not be at risk of deselection, deputies also introduced a lenient financial penalty, creating a loophole whereby parties could violate the law to protect male incumbents.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Why Are Gender Quotas Adopted? Party Pragmatism and Parity in France
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?