Honors Thesis Spotlight: The Legislative Effectiveness Under Gender Quotas: Argentina Before and After Quota Implementation

Women continue to be under-represented in the legislative bodies of their governments. To combat this, some governments implement gender quotas to increase the number of women holding seats in their legislature. Gender quotas help achieve balanced representation by requiring a particular number or percentage of seats to be allocated to a specific group, such as women. More women must be elected into positions of power in governments; however, it is just as important that these women can wield their power as effectively as their male counterparts. Beyond getting elected, female legislators face several obstacles in passing legislation at the same rate as men. They may face challenges from other political elites, namely male, who attempt to diminish their capabilities through menial committee assignments, threats, or problematic quota design. At times, the motives for quota implementation are performative rather than a genuine attempt at equal representation in legislation. This research assesses the success of women under legislative gender quotas by examining the legislative effectiveness of male and female Members of Congress both before and after the implementation of the quota.

To make their assessment, the researcher analyzes the effectiveness of female legislators in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and Senate before and after quota implementation. Gender quotas were formally implemented in Argentina in 1991, and the country is often studied in gender and politics. By law, Argentina requires a minimum of 30 percent of the candidates in all electoral districts to be women. Argentina implements robust enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the quota laws. Party lists that fail to comply with quota laws are rejected by independent electoral authorities. Argentina’s firm gender quota makes it an appropriate country to analyze discrepancies in the effectiveness of female legislators who are elected under a quota system.

The author assesses legislative effectiveness by examining the number of women-sponsored bills that are rejected, the number of bills that pass only their house of origin, and the number of bills that pass both houses and become law both before and after quota implementation. These findings are further compared to the effectiveness of male legislators before and after quota implementation. To ensure a comprehensive analysis, the efficacy of female legislators is examined across all policy areas, rather than focusing on traditionally feminine policy areas alone.        

The researcher hypothesized that even under successful quota laws, women would be less effective legislators than male legislators due to discrimination and bias based on a review of previous literature. Somewhat surprisingly, the findings of this research suggest otherwise. This research indicates that both before and after quota implementation, female Members of Congress are equal to, and sometimes outperform, male Members of Congress in legislative effectiveness. As a more significant number of women began to populate the legislature, a slight increase in effectiveness is observed, though not a particularly dramatic one.

The findings contribute essential evidence to the viability of gender quotas in government. Ensuring the participation of women in democracy at all levels is critical for the accurate representation of women and their political preferences. Diversity in legislation allows the opinions and preferences of underrepresented groups to be more effectively heard. For instance, women’s issues can be better championed by other women with similar life experiences or preferences. Additionally, diverse legislatures garner greater legitimacy from more of their constituency. As more countries consider gender quotas to improve representation in government, Argentina may offer a model to other governments to implement and enforce successful gender quota laws. Further research expanding on these findings can be beneficial in ensuring women’s voices are heard in legislation.

Hannah Cake is a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in International Affairs and Political Science. This post was based on Hannah’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP Intern Dara Begley. You can learn more about Hannah here. You can learn more about this project here.

Source for featured image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/boy-and-girl-cutout-decals-1386336/

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