Skip to main content

Quotas for Men: Reframing Gender Quotas as a Means of Improving Representation for All


Gender quotas traditionally focus on the underrepresentation of women. Conceiving of quotas in this way perpetuates the status of men as the norm and women as the “other.” Women are subject to heavy scrutiny of their qualifications and competence, whereas men's credentials go unchallenged. This article calls for a normative shift in the problem of overrepresentation, arguing that the quality of representation is negatively affected by having too large a group drawn from too narrow a talent pool. Curbing overrepresentation through ceiling quotas for men offers three core benefits. First, it promotes meritocracy by ensuring the proper scrutiny of politicians of both sexes. Second, it provides an impetus for improving the criteria used to select and evaluate politicians. Third, neutralizing the overly masculinized environment within parliaments might facilitate better substantive and symbolic representation of both men and women. All citizens would benefit from these measures to increase the quality of representation.

Corresponding author
Rainbow Murray, Queen Mary University of London (
Hide All
Anderson Christopher, and Guillory Christine. 1997. “Political Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy.” American Political Science Review 91 (1): 6681.
Atkeson Lonna Rae. 2003. “Not All Cues Are Created Equal: The Conditional Impact of Female Candidates on Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 65 (4): 1040–61.
Bacchi Carol. 1996. The Politics of Affirmative Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Bacchi Carol. 2006. “Arguing for and against Quotas: Theoretical Issues.” In Women, Quotas and Politics, ed. Dahlerup Drude. London: Routledge, 3252.
Baldez Lisa. 2004. “Elected Bodies: Gender Quota Laws for Legislative Candidates in Mexico.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 29 (May): 231–58.
Baldez Lisa. 2006. “The Pros and Cons of Gender Quota Laws.” Politics & Gender 2 (1): 102–09.
Bale Tim, and Caramani Daniele. 2010. “Political Data in 2009.” European Journal of Political Research 49 (7–8): 855–67.
Baltrunaite Audinga, Bello Piero, Casarico Alessandra, and Profeta Paola. 2012. “Gender Quotas and the Quality of Politicians.” Mimeo, Bocconi University.
Bauer Gretchen, and Britton Hannah E., eds. 2006. Women in African Parliaments. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Besley Timothy, Folke Olle, Persson Torsten, and Rickne Johanna. 2012. “Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man.” Mimeo, Centre for Economic Policy Research.
Bhavnani Rikhil R. 2009. “Do Electoral Quotas Work after They Are Withdrawn? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in India.” American Political Science Review 103 (1): 2335.
Bjarnegård Elin. 2013. Gender, Informal Institutions and Political Recruitment. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Black Jerome H., and Erickson Lynda. 2000. “Similarity, Compensation, or Difference? A Comparison of Female and Male Office-Seekers.” Women & Politics 21 (4): 138.
Campbell Rosie, Childs Sarah, and Lovenduski Joni. 2010. “Do Women Need Women Representatives?British Journal of Political Science 40 (1): 171–94.
Caramani Daniele, Deegan-Krause Kevin, and Murray Rainbow. 2011. “Political Data in 2010.” European Journal of Political Research 50 (7–8): 869–87.
Carter David, Simkins Betty and Simpson W. Gary. 2003. “Corporate Governance, Board Diversity, and Firm Value.” Financial Review 38 (1): 3353.
Carver Terrell. 1996. Gender Is Not a Synonym for Women. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Celis Karen. 2006. “Substantive Representation of Women: The Representation of Women's Interests and the Impact of Descriptive Representation in the Belgian Parliament (1900–1979).” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 28 (2): 85114.
Celis Karen, Childs Sarah, Kantola Johanna, and Krook Mona L.. 2008. “Rethinking Women's Substantive Representation.” Representation 44 (2): 99110.
Celis Karen, Krook Mona Lena, and Meier Petra. 2011. “The Rise of Gender Quota Laws: Expanding the Spectrum of Determinants for Electoral Reform.” West European Politics 34 (3): 514–30.
Childs Sarah. 2004. New Labour's Women MPs. New York: Routledge.
Childs Sarah. 2006. “The House Turned Upside Down? The Difference Labour's Women MPs Made.” In Representing Women in Parliament, eds. Sawer Marian, Tremblay Manon, and Trimble Linda. Oxford: Routledge, 152–67.
Childs Sarah, and Krook Mona L.. 2008. “Critical Mass Theory and Women's Political Representation.” Political Studies 56 (3): 725–36.
Childs Sarah, and Krook Mona L.. 2009. “Analyzing Women's Substantive Representation: From Critical Mass to Critical Actors.” Government and Opposition 44 (2): 125–45.
Childs Sarah, and Webb Paul. 2012. Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Childs Sarah, and Withey Julie. 2006. “The Substantive Representation of Women: The Case of the Reduction of VAT on Sanitary Products.” Parliamentary Affairs 59 (1): 1023.
Collinson David. L. 1988. “‘Engineering Humour’: Masculinity, Joking and Conflict in Shop-floor Relations.” Organization Studies 9 (2): 181–99.
Collinson David L., and Hearn Jeff. 2005. “Men and Masculinities in Work, Organizations, and Management.” In Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities, eds. Kimmel Michael S., Hearn Jeff, and Connell Robert W.. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Crowley Jocelyn Elise. 2004. “When Tokens Matter.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 29 (1): 109–36.
Curtin Jennifer. 2008. “Comparing Pathways to Power: Women and Political Leadership in New Zealand and Australia.” In Public Leadership: Perspectives and Practices, eds. Hurt Paul ‘t and Uhr John. Canberra: Australia National University Press, 265–74.
Dahlerup Drude. 2006. “Introduction.” In Women, Quotas and Politics, ed. Dahlerup Drude. London: Routledge, 331.
Dahlerup Drude. 2007. “Electoral Gender Quotas: Between Equality of Opportunity and Equality of Result.” Representation 43 (2): 7392.
Dahlerup Drude, and Freidenvall Lenita. 2005. “Quotas as a ‘Fast Track’ to Equal Representation for Women.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 7 (1): 2648.
Dahlerup Drude, and Freidenvall Lenita. 2010. “Judging Gender Quotas: Predictions and Results.” Policy and Politics 38 (3): 407–25.
Daly Mary. 2005. “Gender Mainstreaming in Theory and Practice.” Social Politics 12 (3): 433–50.
Denis Daphnee. 2012. “Sun Rises, French Female Minister Gets Heckled, Sun Sets.” Slate, July 19. Accessed August 18, 2013.
Diamond Irene, and Hartsock Nancy. 1981. “Beyond Interests in Politics.” American Political Science Review 75 (3): 717–21.
Dollar David, Fisman Sandra, and Gatti Roberta. 2001. “Are Women Really the ‘Fairer’ Sex? Corruption and Women in Government.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 46: 423–29.
Dovi Suzanne. 2002. “Preferable Descriptive Representatives: Will Just Any Woman, Black, or Latino Do?American Political Science Review 96 (4): 729–43.
Dovi Suzanne. 2007. The Good Representative. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Elliott Cath. 2011. “Cameron's ‘Calm Down, Dear’ Is a Classic Sexist Put-down.” The Guardian, April 27.
Escobar-Lemmon Maria, and Taylor-Robinson Michelle. 2009. “Getting to the Top: Career Paths of Women in Latin American Cabinets.” Political Research Quarterly 62 (4): 685–99.
Eulau Heinz, Wahlke John C., Buchanan William, and Ferguson Leroy C.. 1959. “The Role of the Representative: Some Empirical Observations on the Theory of Edmund Burke.” American Political Science Review 53 (3): 742–56.
Falk Erika. 2008. Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Franceschet Susan, Krook Mona Lena, and Piscopo Jennifer M., eds. 2012. The Impact of Quotas on Women's Descriptive, Substantive, and Symbolic Representation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Franceschet Susan, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. 2008. “Gender Quotas and Women's Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina.” Politics & Gender 4 (3): 393426.
Franceschet Susan, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. 2012. “Gender Quotas and Political Backgrounds.” In The Impact of Quotas, eds. Franceschet Susan, Krook Mona Lena, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. New York: Oxford University Press, 4356.
Franceschet Susan, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. 2014. “Sustaining Gendered Practices? Power, Parties, and Elite Political Networks in Argentina.” Comparative Political Studies 47 (1): 85110.
Galasso Vincenzo, and Nannicini Tommaso, 2011. “Competing on Good Politicians.” American Political Science Review 105 (1): 7999.
Grey Sandra. 2002. “Does Size Matter? Critical Mass and New Zealand's Women MPs.” Parliamentary Affairs 55 (1): 1929.
Hawkesworth Mary. 2003. “Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender: Towards a Theory of Raced-Gendered Institutions.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 529–50.
Hazan Reuven Y., and Rahat Gideon. 2010. Democracy within Parties: Candidate Selection Methods and Their Political Consequences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Henn Matt, Weinstein Mark, and Hodgkinson Sarah. 2007. “Social Capital and Political Participation: Understanding the Dynamics of Young People's Political Disengagement in Contemporary Britain.” Social Policy and Society 6 (4): 467–79.
Htun Mala N. 2005. “Why Women, But Not Blacks or Indians, Got Quotas in Politics in Latin America.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.
Jones Mark. 1998. “Gender Quotas, Electoral Laws, and the Election of Women.” Comparative Political Studies 31 (1): 321.
Júlio Paolo, and Tavares José. 2010. “The Good, the Bad and the Different: Can Gender Quotas Raise the Quality of Politicians?Mimeo, Centre for Economic Policy Research.
Kanter Rosabeth Moss. 1977. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books.
Karam Azza. 1999. “Beijing +5: Women's Political Participation.” Paper presented at the UNDP Meeting on Women and Political Participation, New Delhi, India.
Karp Jeffrey A., and Banducci Susan A.. 2008. “When Politics Is Not Just a Man's Game: Women's Representation and Political Engagement.” Electoral Studies 27: 105–15.
Kenny Michael (2011). “The Political Theory of Recognition: The Case of the ‘White Working Class.’British Journal of Politics and International Relations 14 (1): 1938.
Kotakorpi Kaisa, and Poutvaara Panu. 2011. “Pay for Politicians and Candidate Selection: An Empirical Analysis.” Journal of Public Economics 95 (7–8): 877–85.
Krook Mona Lena. 2006. “Gender Quotas, Norms, and Politics.” Politics & Gender 2 (1): 110–18.
Krook Mona Lena. 2009. Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide. New York: Oxford University Press.
Larson Anna. 2012. “Collective Identities, Institutions, Security, and State Building in Afghanistan.” In The Impact of Quotas, eds. Franceschet Susan, Krook Mona Lena, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. New York: Oxford University Press, 136–55.
Lawless Jennifer, and Fox Richard L.. 2010. It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lawrence Regina, and Rose Melody. 2010. Hillary Clinton's Race for the White House. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
LeBlanc Robin. 2009. The Art of the Gut: Manhood, Power, and Ethics in Japanese Politics. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Lovenduski Joni. 2005. Feminizing Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Mansbridge Jane. 1999. “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes.’Journal of Politics 61 (3): 628–57.
Mansbridge Jane. 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 515–28.
May Theresa. 2004. “Women in the House: The Continuing Challenge.” Parliamentary Affairs 57 (4): 844–51.
Messner Michael A., and Solomon Nancy M.. 2007. “Social Justice and Men's Interests.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 31 (2): 162–78.
Murphy George E. 1998. “Why Women Are Less Likely than Men to Commit Suicide.” Comprehensive Psychiatry 39 (4): 165–75.
Murray Rainbow, ed. 2010a. Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Murray Rainbow. 2010b. “Second among Unequals: A Study of Whether France's ‘Quota Women’ Are up to the Job.” Politics & Gender 6 (1): 93118.
Murray Rainbow. 2010c. Parties, Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection in France. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Niven David. 1998. “Party Elites and Women Candidates: The Shape of Bias.” Women & Politics 19 (2): 5780.
Norris Pippa, and Lovenduski Joni. 1995. Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Norris Pippa, Lovenduski Joni, and Campbell Rosie. 2004. Gender and Political Participation: The Activism Gap. London: Electoral Commission.
O'Brien Diana Z. 2012. “Quotas and Qualifications in Uganda.” In The Impact of Quotas, eds. Franceschet Susan, Krook Mona Lena, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. New York: Oxford University Press, 5771.
O'Toole Therese, Marsh David, and Jones Su. 2003. “Political Literacy Cuts Both Ways: The Politics of Non-participation among Young People.” Political Quarterly 74 (3): 349–60.
Pease Bob. 2002. “(Re)Constructing Men's Interests.” Men and Masculinities 5 (2): 165–77.
Phillips Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pitkin Hanna. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Prügl Elisabeth. 2012. “’If Lehman Brothers Had Been Lehman Sisters. . .’: Gender and Myth in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis.” International Political Sociology 6 (1): 2135.
Przeworski Adam, Stokes Susan C., and Manin Bernard. 1999. Democracy, Accountability, and Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rehfeld Andrew. 2009. “Representation Rethought: On Trustees, Delegates, and Gyroscopes in the Study of Political Representation and Democracy.” American Political Science Review 103 (2): 214–30.
Rehfeld Andrew. 2010. “On Quotas and Qualifications for Office.” In Political Representation, eds. Shapiro Ian, Stokes Susan, Wood Elisabeth Jean, and Kirshner Alexander. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 236–68.
Reingold Beth. 2006. “Women as Office Holders: Linking Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Paper presented at the “Political Women and American Democracy” conference, University of Notre Dame.
Saint-Germain Michelle A. 1993. “Paths to Power of Women Legislators in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.” Women's Studies International Forum 16 (2): 119–38.
Sapiro Virginia. 1981. “When Are Interests Interesting? The Problem of Political Representation of Women.” American Political Science Review 75 (3): 701–16.
Saward Michael. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schwindt-Bayer Leslie. 2010. Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sénac-Slawinski Réjane. 2010. “De la parité à la diversité: entre Deuxième sexe et discrimination seconde.” Modern and Contemporary France 18 (4): 431–44.
Stevens Anne. 2012. “Comparing and Assessing Gender Effects in Political Leadership.” In Comparative Political Leadership, ed. Helms Ludger. Basingstoke: Palgrave 207–26.
Sung Hung-En. 2003. “Fairer Sex or Fairer System? Gender and Corruption Revisited.” Social Forces 82 (2): 703–23.
Swamy Anand, Knack Stephen, Lee Young, and Azfar Omas. 2001. “Gender and Corruption.” Journal of Developmental Economics 64 (1): 2555.
Swers Michele L. 1998. “Are Women More Likely to Vote for Women's Issue Bills than Their Male Counterparts?Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (3): 435–48.
Swers Michele L. 2005. “Connecting Descriptive and Substantive Representation: An Analysis of Sex Differences in Co-sponsorship Activity.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 30 (3): 407–33.
Taylor Bron R. 1991. Affirmative Action at Work. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Teigen Mari. 2000. “The Affirmative Action Controversy.” NORA—Nordic Journal of Women's Studies 8 (2): 6377.
Tinker Irene. 2004. “Quotas for Women in Elected Legislatures: Do They Really Empower Women?Women's Studies International Forum 27: 531–46.
Tripp Aili Mari, and Kang Alice. 2008. “The Global Impact of Quotas: On the Fast Track to Increased Female Legislative Representation.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (3): 338–61.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2010. Global Education Digest 2010: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World.
Verba Sidney, Burns Nancy, and Schlozman Kay Lehman. 1997. “Knowing and Caring about Politics: Gender and Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics 59 (4): 1051–72.
Verge Tania. 2011. “Quotas’ Effects on Political Recruitment, Candidates’ Profiles, and Routes to Political Office.” Paper presented at the European Conference on Gender and Politics, Budapest, Hungary.
Walby Sylvia. 2005. “Gender Mainstreaming: Productive Tensions in Theory and Practice.” Social Politics 12 (3): 321–43.
Walsh Denise. 2012. “Party Centralization and Debate Conditions in South Africa.” In The Impact of Quotas, eds. Franceschet Susan, Krook Mona Lena, and Piscopo Jennifer M.. New York: Oxford University Press, 119–35.
Young Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zetterberg Par. 2008. “The Downside of Gender Quotas? Institutional Constraints on Women in Mexican State Legislatures.” Parliamentary Affairs 61 (3): 442–60.
Zimmer Lynn. 1988. “Tokenism and Women in the Workplace: The Limits of Gender-Neutral Theory.” Social Problems 35 (1): 6477.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 128
Total number of PDF views: 914 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1790 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.