Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-qn7h5 Total loading time: 0.365 Render date: 2022-09-28T23:10:51.115Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2017

Michael Jankowski
University of Oldenburg
Kamil Marcinkiewicz
University of Hamburg


Research on the impact of gender quotas in open-list proportional representation systems has described quotas as ineffective or even paradoxical. While some authors argue that gender quotas without a placement mandate will be essentially ineffective since most women will be nominated to unpromising positions, others suppose that women will be disadvantaged by gender quotas because the increase in the number of female candidates will decrease the average number of preferential votes cast for women. We reexamine the evidence for these claims by analyzing the case of Poland. We demonstrate that the gender quota introduced there in 2011 increased the number of women placed at promising ballot positions and had very little impact on the number of preferential votes cast for women. Additionally, using simulations, we show that the quota had a positive impact on the number of elected women.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We are grateful to the editor of Politics & Gender, Mary Caputi, several anonymous reviewers, Anita Gohdes, and Maciej A. Górecki for their constructive and helpful feedback on ealier versions of this article.



Allik, Mirjam. 2015. “Who Stands in the Way of Women? Open vs. Closed Lists and Candidate Gender in Estonia.” East European Politics 31 (4): 429–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baldez, Lisa. 2004. “Elected Bodies: The Gender Quota Law for Legislative Candidates in Mexico.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 29 (2): 231–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Besley, Timothy, Folke, Olle, Persson, Torsten, and Rickne, Johanna. 2017. “Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden.” American Economic Review 107 (8): 2204–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blom-Hansen, Jens, Elklit, Jørgen, Serritzlew, Søren, and Villadsen, Lousie. 2016. “Ballot Position and Election Results: Evidence from a Natural Experiment.” Electoral Studies 44: 172–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campbell, Rosie, and Cowley, Philip. 2014. “What Voters Want: Reactions to Candidate Characteristics in a Survey Experiment.” Political Studies 62 (4): 745–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carnes, Nicholas, and Lupu, Noam. 2016. “Do Voters Dislike Working-Class Candidates? Voter Biases and the Descriptive Underrepresentation of the Working Class.” American Political Science Review 110 (4): 832–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dahlerup, Drude. 2007. “Electoral Gender Quotas: Between Equality of Opportunity and Equality of Result.” Representation 43 (2): 7392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dubrow, Johsua Kjerulf. 2011. “The Importance of Party Ideology: Explaining Parliamentarian Support for Political Party Gender Quotas in Eastern Europe.” Party Politics 17 (5): 561–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
EAST PaC. 2015. “East European Parliamentarian and Candidate Data 1985–2014.” Funded by Poland's National Science Centre (decision number 2012/05/E/HS6/03556). (accessed November 8, 2017).Google Scholar
Erzeel, Silvia, and Celis, Karen. 2016. “Political Parties, Ideology and the Substantive Representation of Women.” Party Politics 22 (5): 576–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Faas, Thorsten, and Schoen, Harald. 2006. “The Importance of Being First: Effects of Candidates’ List Positions in the 2003 Bavarian State Election.” Electoral Studies 25 (1): 91102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Folke, Olle, and Rickne, Johanna. 2016. “The Glass Ceiling in Politics.” Comparative Political Studies 49 (5): 567–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fortin-Rittberger, Jessica, and Eder, Christina. 2013. “Towards a Gender-Equal Bundestag? The Impact of Electoral Rules on Women's Representation.” West European Politics 36 (5): 969–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fortin-Rittberger, Jessica, and Rittberger, Berthold. 2014. “Do Electoral Rules Matter? Explaining National Differences in Women's Representation in the European Parliament.” European Union Politics 15 (4): 496520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fréchette, Guillaume R., Maniquet, Francois, and Morelli, Massimo. 2008. “Incumbents’ Interests and Gender Quotas.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (4): 891909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giger, Nathalie, Holli, Anne Maria, Lefkofridi, Zoe, and Wass, Hanna. 2014. “The Gender Gap in Same-Gender Voting: The Role of Context.” Electoral Studies 35: 303–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Golder, Sona N., Stephenson, Laura B., Van der Straeten, Karine, Blais, André, Bol, Damien, Harfst, Philipp, and Laslier, Jean-François. 2017. “Votes for Women: Electoral Systems and Support for Female Candidates.” Politics & Gender 13 (1): 107–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Górecki, Maciej A., and Kukołowicz, Paula. 2014. “Gender Quotas, Candidate Background and the Election of Women: A Paradox of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems.” Electoral Studies 36: 6580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gwiazda, Anna. 2015. “Women's Representation and Gender Quotas: The Case of the Polish Parliament.” Democratization 22 (4): 679–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gwiazda, Anna. 2016. Democracy in Poland: Representation, Participation, Competition and Accountability since 1989. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Holli, Anne Maria, and Wass, Hanna. 2010. “Gender-Based Voting in the Parliamentary Elections of 2007 in Finland.” European Journal of Political Research 49 (5): 598630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jankowski, Michael. 2016. “Voting for Locals: Voters’ Information Processing Strategies in Open-List PR Systems.” Electoral Studies 43 (3): 7284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jankowski, Michael, and Marcinkiewicz, Kamil. 2016. “Are Populist Parties Fostering Women's Political Representation in Poland? A Comment on Kostadinova and Mikulska.” Party Politics Published online June 6. Scholar
Jones, Mark P. 1998. “Gender Quotas, Electoral Laws, and the Election of Women: Lessons from the Argentine Provinces.” Comparative Political Studies 31 (1): 321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, Mark P. 2009. “Gender Quotas, Electoral Laws, and the Election of Women: Evidence from the Latin American Vanguard.” Comparative Political Studies 42 (1): 5681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelley, Jonathan, and McAllister, Ian. 1984. “Ballot Paper Cues and the Vote in Australia and Britain: Alphabetic Voting, Sex, and Title.” Public Opinion Quarterly 48 (2): 452–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kostadinova, Tatiana, and Mikulska, Anna. 2015. “The Puzzling Success of Populist Parties in Promoting Women's Political Representation.” Party Politics 23 (4): 400412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krook, Mona Lena. 2009. Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krook, Mona Lena, Lovenduski, Joni, and Squires, Judith. 2009. “Gender Quotas and Models of Political Citizenship.” British Journal of Political Science 39 (4): 781803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krook, Mona Lena, and Norris, Pippa. 2014. “Beyond Quotas: Strategies to Promote Gender Equality in Elected Office.” Political Studies 62 (1): 220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kukołowicz, Paula. 2013. “Do Voters Read Gender? Stereotypes as Voting Cues in Electoral Settings.” Polish Sociological Review 182 (2): 223–38.Google Scholar
Kunovich, Sheri. 2003. “The Representation of Polish and Czech Women in National Politics: Predicting Electoral List Position.” Comparative Politics 35 (3): 273–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kunovich, Sheri. 2012. “Unexpected Winners: The Significance of an Open-List System on Women's Representation in Poland.” Politics & Gender 8 (2): 153–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luhiste, Maarja. 2015. “Party Gatekeepers’ Support for Viable Female Candidacy in PR-List Systems.” Politics & Gender 11 (1): 89116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcinkiewicz, Kamil. 2014. “Electoral Contexts That Assist Voter Coordination: Ballot Position Effects in Poland.” Electoral Studies 33: 322–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcinkiewicz, Kamil, and Stegmaier, Mary. 2015. “Ballot Position Effects under Compulsory and Optional Preferential-List PR Electoral Systems.” Political Behavior 37 (2): 465–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcinkiewicz, Kamil, and Stegmaier, Mary. 2016. “The Parliamentary Election in Poland, October 2015.” Electoral Studies 41: 221–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marien, Sofie, Schouteden, Anke, and Wauters, Bram. 2016. “Voting for Women in Belgium's Flexible List System.” Politics & Gender 13 (2): 305–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matland, Richard E. 1994. “Putting Scandinavian Equality to the Test: An Experimental Evaluation of Gender Stereotyping of Political Candidates in a Sample of Norwegian Voters.” British Journal of Political Science 24 (2): 273–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matland, Richard E. 2004. “The Norwegian Experience of Gender Quotas.” Presented at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA)/CEE Network for Gender Issues Conference.Google Scholar
McElroy, Gail, and Marsh, Michael. 2010. “Candidate Gender and Voter Choice: Analysis from a Multimember Preferential Voting System.” Political Research Quarterly 63 (4): 822–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Millard, Frances. 2014. “Not Much Happened: The Impact of Gender Quotas in Poland.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 47 (1): 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Millard, Frances, Popescu, Marina, and Tóka, Gabor. 2013. “The Impact of Preference Voting Systems on Women's Representation and the Legitimation of Quota-Based Nomination Results.” Presented at the Joint Sessions of Workshops of the European Consortium for Political Research in Mainz, Germany, March 11–16.Google Scholar
Milyo, Jeffrey, and Schosberg, Samantha. 2000. “Gender Bias and Selection Bias in House Elections.” Public Choice 105 (1–2): 4159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Put, Gert-Jan, and Maddens, Bart. 2013. “The Selection of Candidates for Eligible Positions on PR Lists: The Belgian/Flemish Federal Elections 1999–2010.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 23 (1): 4965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quota Project. 2016. “Global Database of Quotas for Women.” Scholar
Roberts, Andrew, Seawright, Jason, and Cyr, Jennifer. 2013. “Do Electoral Laws Affect Women's Representation?Comparative Political Studies 46 (12): 1555–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2002. “Gender Stereotypes and Vote Choice.” American Journal of Political Science 46 (1): 2034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmidt, Gregory D. 2009. “The Election of Women in List PR Systems: Testing the Conventional Wisdom.” Electoral Studies 28 (2): 190203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., Malecki, Michael, and Crisp, Brian F.. 2010. “Candidate Gender and Electoral Success in Single Transferable Vote Systems.” British Journal of Political Science 40 (3): 693709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spierings, Niels, and Jacobs, Kristof. 2014. “Getting Personal? The Impact of Social Media on Preferential Voting.” Political Behavior 36 (1): 215–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stegmaier, Mary, Tosun, Jale, and Vlachova, Klara. 2014. “Women's Parliamentary Representation in the Czech Republic: Does Preference Voting Matter.” East European Politics and Societies 28 (1): 187204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thames, Frank C., and Williams, Margaret S.. 2010. “Incentives for Personal Votes and Women's Representation in Legislatures.” Comparative Political Studies 43 (12): 15751600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thames, Frank C., and Williams, Margaret S.. 2013. Contagious Representation: Women's Political Representation in Democracies Around the World. New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valdini, Melody Ellis. 2012. “A Deterrent to Diversity: The Conditional Effect of Electoral Rules on the Nomination of Women Candidates.” Electoral Studies 31 (4): 740–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Erkel, Patrick F. A., and Thijssen, Peter. 2016. “The First One Wins: Distilling the Primacy Effect.” Electoral Studies 44: 245–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vengroff, Richard, Nyiria, Zsolt, and Fugiero, Melissa. 2003. “Electoral System and Gender Representation in Sub-National Legislatures: Is There a National-Sub-National Gender Gap?Political Research Quarterly 56 (2): 163–73.Google Scholar
Verge, Tània. 2015. “The Gender Regime of Political Parties: Feedback Effects between ‘Supply’ and ‘Demand.’” Politics & Gender 11 (4): 754–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wauters, Bram, Maddens, Bart, and Put, Gert-Jan. 2014. “It Takes Time: The Long-Term Effects of Gender Quota.” Representation 50 (2): 143–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wauters, Bram, Weekers, Karolien, and Maddens, Bart. 2010. “Explaining the Number of Preferential Votes for Women in an Open-List PR System: An Investigation of the 2003 Federal Elections in Flanders (Belgium).” Acta Politica 45 (4): 468–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wylie, Kristin, and Santos, Pedro dos. 2016. “A Law on Paper Only: Electoral Rules, Parties, and the Persistent Underrepresentation of Women in Brazilian Legislatures.” Politics & Gender 12 (3): 415–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Jankowski and Marcinkiewicz supplementary material 1


Download Jankowski and Marcinkiewicz supplementary material 1(File)
File 65 KB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *