The introduction of France's “parity” law in 2000 raised fears of electing inferior women candidates via a gender quota. France has since held two legislative elections, with the proportion of women in parliament rising from 10.9% to 12.3% in 2002, and 18.5% in 2007. These rises permit an empirical evaluation of whether “quota women” measure up to those elected without a quota. New women parliamentarians are compared to their male counterparts and to women elected before 2002 to see whether there are any noticeable differences in their background (profession, age, and prior experience) and their levels of parliamentary activity (including numbers of bills, reports, and questions introduced).
The findings challenge the notion that parity is producing weak politicians. The slightly different profiles of men and women politicians reflect wider barriers to women's political careers that would not have been overcome without the parity law. Once women are elected, the volume of activity shows no evidence of being gendered, suggesting that women are as effective in the job as men. These findings imply that sex is a barrier to entry but not to performance, reinforcing claims for the use of quotas to overcome entry barriers and negating claims that quotas produce second-rate parliamentarians.