Gender Quotas for Men in Politics – Could it also work to increase Women on Boards?

Published: 11/01/2015

Emily von Hoffman wrote an article published in The Atlantic on 2nd of December 2014 about how limiting male representation, rather than creating a floor for female participation, might shake up government. I am wondering if an element of this couldn’t be applied to the women on boards debate.??

“One researcher is taking the usual logic and flipping it on its head, arguing that the real problem isn’t that women are underrepresented, but rather that men are overrepresented. Rainbow Murray, an associate professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London, proposes that governments move away from implicit quotas for women, which frame women as outsiders and men as the norm, and toward explicit quotas for men—weeding out the male politicians who are perhaps not all that well qualified.” Read the rest of Emily’s article

Rainbow Murray: “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.” To read her research paper in full go to

Rainbow Murray is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Politics at Queen Mary, University of London, and a visiting research fellow at CEVIPOF (Sciences Po, Paris). She is the author of “Parties, Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection in France” (Palgrave, 2010) and the editor of “Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women’s Campaigns for Executive Office” (Praeger, 2010). More details are available here.