Since the 1970s, quotas for female political candidates in elections have proliferated worldwide. Beyond increasing the numbers of women in high-level elected bodies and, thereby, women’s political representation, advocates claim that quotas foster gender-equal participation in democracy and create female role models. According to this reasoning, quotas also overcome barriers to women’s political participation, especially discriminatory practices in the selection of electoral candidates. Though such claims have persuaded policymakers to adopt quotas, little empirical evidence exists to verify their effects.
In Gender Quotas and Democratic Participation, Louise K. Davidson-Schmich employs a pathbreaking research design to assess the effects of gender quotas on all phases of political recruitment. Drawing on interviews with, and an original survey of, potential candidates in Germany, she investigates the extent to which quotas and corresponding increases in women’s descriptive representation have resulted in similar percentages of men and women joining political parties, aspiring to elected office, pursuing ballot nominations, and securing selection as candidates. She also examines the effect of quotas on discriminatory selection procedures.
Ultimately, Davidson-Schmich argues, quotas’ intended benefits have been only partially realized. Quotas give women greater presence in powerful elected bodies not by encouraging female citizens to pursue political office at rates similar to men’s, but by improving the odds that the limited number of politically ambitious women who do join parties will be elected. She concludes with concrete, original policy recommendations for increasing women’s political participation.
“Davidson-Schmich contributes valuable new insight on the effects of opportunity structures, motivations, and environmental contexts.”
—Elisabeth Prügl, The Graduate Institute, Geneva
“The book is no less than a breakthrough in the empirical study of gender politics.”
—Gideon Rahat, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem