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The downside of gender quotas?: institutional constraints on women in mexican state legislatures
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
2008 (English)In: Parliamentary Affairs, ISSN 0031-2290, E-ISSN 1460-2482, Vol. 61, no 3, 442-460 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In recent years, a rich and varied body of literature has developed that focuses on the way that institutional structures limit women’s substantive representation. Claims have been made that some women legislators are more likely to suffer from institutional constraints than others; those entering legislature via legal gender quotas. Examining two Mexican state legislatures, where only one has adopted legal gender quotas, empirical testing gives no support to the hypothesis; ‘quota women’ do not seem to confront more obstacles than other women. No such negative side effect of quota legislation is identified. Two reasons are put forward; first, dependency on particular leaders is not isolated to quota women but is part of the overall political system. Secondly, the most strident battles occur within political parties for positions of power; hence gender quotas are perceived as a threat mainly to male colleagues within the party. Two key aspects are identified that deserve closer attention in order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the relationship between gender quotas and institutional obstacles to women’s substantive representation: the political agendas raised by quota women and the interplay between different quota provisions and candidate selection rules.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 61, no 3, 442-460 p.
Keyword [en]
gender, quotas, Mexico, substantive representation, candidate selection, tokenism, stigmatization
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-27497DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsn016ISI: 000257191100003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-27497DiVA: diva2:59563
Available from: 2008-10-17 Created: 2008-10-17 Last updated: 2011-01-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Engineering Equality?: Assessing the Multiple Impacts of Electoral Gender Quotas
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Engineering Equality?: Assessing the Multiple Impacts of Electoral Gender Quotas
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The driving question of this compilation thesis is whether quotas for political assemblies represent an effective tool for breaking down gender inequality in the political sphere. To put it differently, focus is on the possibilities for policy-makers to engineer equality. As a response to persistent patterns of male dominance in political decision-making, approximately 100 countries, both democratic and authoritarian, have adopted these affirmative action measures.

The introductory section presents an argument as to why we should focus on certain impacts in order to be able to answer the question about the effectiveness of quotas. It suggests that the point of departure for empirical assessments of quota policies should be the normative arguments for supporting the reform, and the effects that normative theorists and quota advocates expect from these measures.

The three studies that make up the core of the thesis build on previous empirical research on quotas, and examine some of their possible effects at both the elite level and mass level. Study I theoretically scrutinizes how the procedures for selecting women to political office shape these women's legislative autonomy, and thereby their possibilities to substantively represent women. The study identifies mainly two factors as important: a large body selecting the candidates and a rule-bound and thus bureaucratized selection procedure.

Study II empirically tests the claim that women elected through quotas are more likely to suffer from institutional constraints in the legislature, and thereby have a harder time working for the benefit of women, than other female representatives. By conducting a comparative case-study of two Mexican state legislatures, no support is found for this hypothesis.

Quotas have also been justified because of their likely impacts on female citizens' perceptions about politics. Study III addresses this issue by performing a statistical analysis on the impacts of quotas on Latin American women's political attitudes and behavior. In contrast to previous research on the topic, the study finds little proof of positive impacts of quotas on women's political engagement.

Taken together, the thesis does not provide a clear-cut answer to the question as to whether it is possible to engineer equality within politics. However, it sheds new light on the complexities of quota impacts, and it qualifies and nuances the picture for those who expect quotas to be an overall solution for problems of gender inequality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: , 2009. 121 p.
quotas, gender, women, equality, representation, participation, candidate selection, Latin America
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100822 (URN)978-91-506-2074-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-05-20, Brusewitzsalen, Gamla torget 6, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2009-04-28 Created: 2009-04-07 Last updated: 2012-10-11Bibliographically approved

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