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Engineering equality? : assessing the multiple impacts of electoral gender quotas

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TesisZetterberg, Pär. Engineering equality? : assessing the multiple impacts of electoral gender quotas.  / Gestionar igualdad? : evaluar los impactos múltiples de las cuotas electorales de género. Ed. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis  : 2009 123p. 978-91-506-2074-0
Tesis doctorales. Uppsala universitet.  Statsvetenskapliga institutionen. 2009. Palabras claves:
América Latina
Mujer y Estudios de Género | Política, Administración pública
Cuotas, Estudios de género, Igualdad, Representación, Participación Selección de candidatos
Siglo XXI


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.

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