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Democratic Mobilisation through Quotas: Experiences in India and Germany



The main purpose of this study is to examine the impact of quotas on the mobilisation of politically under-represented groups. This topic was analysed through two case studies of women in local politics in India and Germany. Gender quotas have changed the political landscape in both countries to a considerable degree. Firstly, most of the women interviewed in both countries began their political careers without political ambitions. Secondly, many female politicians enhanced their (feeling of) competence only during incumbency. Thirdly, once active in politics, most of the interviewees developed political ambitions. The last and by no means least important fact about the mobilisational capacity of quotas is that they not only change the political representation in terms of gender, but also in respect to class, caste, social and educational background.
Democratic Mobilisation through Quotas:
Experiences in India and Germany
The main purpose of this study is to examine the impact of quotas on the
mobilisation of politically under-represented groups. This topic was
analysed through two case studies of women in local politics in India
and Germany. Gender quotas have changed the political landscape in
both countries to a considerable degree. Firstly, most of the women
interviewed in both countries began their political careers without
political ambitions. Secondly, many female politicians enhanced their
(feeling of) competence only during incumbency. Thirdly, once active
in politics, most of the interviewees developed political ambitions. The
last and by no means least important fact about the mobilisational
capacity of quotas is that they not only change the political represen-
tation in terms of gender, but also in respect to class, caste, social
and educational background.
The worldwide triumph of democracy as a preferred political system is
undisputed. Nevertheless, democratic systems increasingly face fundamental
criticism in respect of their actual configurations. A major attack comes
from authors who argue that most democracies are not representative in
terms of an adequate presence of various social groups and therefore lack
legitimacy. The failure of many democracies to adequately represent classes
(such as the over-representation of civil servants in Germany), racial and reli-
gious minorities or women in the formal political process is cause for concern.
Feminists argue that democracy is basically an androcracy, namely the rule of
men and not of the people.
Women are in the majority in most societies, yet
FCCP115093 Techset Composition Ltd, Salisbury, U.K. 5/12/2005
Brigitte Geissel, Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB), Germany; Evelin Hust, South
Asia Institute, New Delhi, India.
Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Vol.43, No.2, July 2005, pp.222–244
ISSN 1466-2043 print=1743-9094 online
DOI: 10.1080=14662040500151101 # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.
only in few Scandinavian countries do they hold about half of the seats in the
political world. Although women in most democracies vote nearly as often as
men, they still rarely run for political offices and only hold few seats and pos-
itions in parliament or government. Several explanations can be found for this
The few women who actually take part in the political arena are
often members of the social and economic elite, sometimes from political
dynasties. Thus in spite of all national and regional differences women
can be characterised as a worldwide politically marginalised group, whereas
most other political minorities are specific to certain countries.
Various avenues are explored to improve the situation and quota rules are
one of the major possible solutions. About 80 countries around the world
operate some type of gender quota system and this number seems to be
Quota systems so far are the most successful mode of securing
greater access for women into the political process. Countries that have
enhanced the presence of women in their national parliaments have often
achieved this enhancement through quotas, introduced either through legisla-
tive action (for example, India, France) or self-imposed regulations by
political parties (for example, Germany).
It is not surprising that the research on quota rules has just begun to
At the beginning of the scientific debate, non-empirical arguments
for and against quota rules have been discussed widely and all options and
varieties of quota rules were disputed.
Today, after a few years of experience,
research mostly focuses on the contexts in which gender quotas were adopted,
for example actors as well as their motivations and strategies,
and on the ways
quotas are implemented. The substantial consequences of quota rules were
less of scientific interest. Whereas the outcome of quotas in terms of
numbers is well known,
the effects on policy changes and on the political
process are less explored. The question whether female politicians make a
difference is the topic of only few recent publications.
But almost no infor-
mation on questions regarding the processes of political mobilisation is
available. The question whether and how quotas affect political interest and
political ambitions of women has hardly been addressed empirically in the
social sciences thus far. In contrast to the copious literature on gender
quotas, therefore, this article scrutinises the mobilising capacity of quota
In this article, the mobilisation potential of quotas will be examined from a
cross-national perspective, using data from an Indian and a German case study
on women in local politics, each conduc ted by one of the authors. The Indian
case study by Evelin Hust was carried out on women in the local rural govern-
ment of the eastern state of Orissa between 1998 and 2000,
the German study
by Brigitte Geissel on women in the municipal parliaments and governments
of the capital, Berlin, was conducted between 1993 and 1995.
These studies
were not cooperatively designed, but were conducted separately. At a seminar
in Delhi, India, on quota in local government, the authors found some surpris-
ing similarities in their studies that propelled them to write this article.
Since the mobilisational effects on politically marginalised groups are of
interest, it was potentially illuminating to look at two divergent cases and
analyse the basic commonalities as well as the differences. The cases of
Germany and India perhaps represent the greatest variations in many
aspects, and thus comparing them enables a comprehensive insight into
general and context-specific mobilisational effects of quotas.
Germany is an economically developed (post-)industrialised country,
whereas India is still dominated by the agrarian sector. Social composition
is much more heterogeneous in India than in Germany, with caste, class,
religion and region as major cleavages. There is great variation in the level
of education between the two countries, with literacy rates in Germany
being nearly 100 per cent for both sexes, whe reas in India it was aroun d
75.3 per cent for males and 53.7 per cent for females in 2001 (Census
2001). Q1Women in Germany are more or less at par with men regarding
freedom of movement and legal decision-making abilities. In India, especially
in rural areas, women have a severe disadvantage in these areas.
Nevertheless, Indian women do not lag behind in every aspec t: In
Germany, no woman was ever appointed head of government, whereas
Indira Ghandi was India’s Prime Minister several times, and Sonia Gandhi
could have become Prime Minister in the last parliamentary elections in
May 2004, but declined. Furthermore, five out of 29 states are presently
headed by women Chief Ministers, namely Tamil Nadu (Jayalalitha), Delhi
(Sheila Dikshit), Rajasthan (Vasundara Raje Scindia), Madya Pradesh (Uma
Bharti) and Bihar (Rabri Devi), and various political parties are also led by
women, most notably the Congress party (Sonia Gandhi), the Bahujan
Samaj party (Mayawati), and the Trinamul Congress (Mamta Banerjee). In
that respect, politically active women at the highest level in India might
provide more positive role models for Indian women than the few women
in high positions in Germany.
However, the studies focus on the local level, not the national or state level.
Firstly, quotas in India are only established at this politica l level. Secondly,
participation in the political arena in Germany mostly starts at the local
and in India the importance of the local level for recruitment has
been strengthened considerably in the last decade. Groups lacking the oppor-
tunity to get involved in local politics are unlikely to be successful at higher
political levels. Thirdly, local-level politics is seen as an arena to develop pol-
itical skills in India as well as in Germany.
Although the data were gathered
for local level politics, we assume that the results will also add insight to the
effects that quota regimes have on the mobilisation of women in general.
We will first discuss established theories on political participation in
parliaments and second describe the political as well as the quota systems
in India and Germany. Third, our methods will be explained and finally
our empirical findings presented. The discussion of these findings, the con-
clusion, and the wording of empirically well-founded theses complete the
Political mobilisation and participation are complex processes. Since various
scientific disciplines study these processes, existing models and approaches
emphasise diverse aspects and factors. Studies differ vastly according to
their theoretical background and premises, their methods, and their operatio-
For the different forms, scales and levels of political engagement
various theories have been put forward.
So far, there is no comprehensive
Some theoretical and empirical approaches deal with the question why
people do and why people do not take a first step into institutionalised politics.
There are several studies in Germany about the reasons why people join a
However, mobilisation processes on a long-term basis after joining
a party have hardly been scrutinised.
In India the first step into politics
does not necessarily mean joining a party. Prior party membership and
engagement is not a necessary condition for a seat in a local parliament.
Nevertheless, it can be said for both cases that processes of mobilisation
towards the first steps of a political career are still a ‘black box’.
These research desiderata are particularly true for local female politicians.
Far more explanations can be found in the literature as to why women do not
participate, than studies exist about why they do participate.
If studies are
conducted at all, they focus on the recruitment of women for national parlia-
ments, thus mostly on the female political elite.
The paths of ‘average’
female party members to political positions at the local level and the entrance
to the political arena are seldom scrutinised.
This is even more astonishing
because the paths of under-represented groups into the political arena are
crucial from a democratic point of view. Due to the lack of specific approaches
in answering our questions, we will work with general theories, widespread in
the research on participation in political institutions.
Three main cluster approaches, operating at the individual or the structural
level, can be found in the current debate on participation in institutionalised
politics. The first cluster emphasises the individual motives and political or
personal goals as important variables. This approach, based on so-called
theories of rational choice, assumes that political participation is a result of
rational considerations of autonomous individuals. Accordingly, people
become politically involved after a rational weighing of the costs and benefits
of participation.
If they decide that this kind of activity provides the best
opportunity to achieve their political or personal interests and ambitions,
they become a candidate.
These political interests and ambitions are
assumed to have developed in the pre-political aren a, for example in school
or in the family, and are therefore described as predispositions.
The second approach focuses on socio-economic factors, such as resources
and skills. It is well known that, for example, family background (social and
political), education, occupational status or income affects political partici-
pation tremendously. From this perspective, participation can mainly be
explained in terms of resources that facilitate political action, which explains
why the participation in political institutions is often a ‘path from privilege to
The third approach stresses structural aspects, such as the recruiting
strategies of parties.
This approach is mainly employed to explain cross-
national variations, in which differences are described quant itatively.
strand of research can, for example, prove statistically that women are less
represented in majority voting systems than in systems with proportional rep-
resentation. This approach can help direct the scientific attention firstly to the
effects of various recruiting strategies of political institutions with or without
quotas in one nation and secondly to the mobilisa tional effect of structural
innovations such as quotas in general.
It can be argued that an integration of the various theoretical approaches,
operating at the structural as well as individual level, is needed to analyse the
political mobilisation process. This has already been demanded in the field of
social movement theory. Rucht, for example, claimed that only the combi-
nation of approaches focusing on micro-conditions with approaches that are
engaged with structure and structural changes can explain the emergence of
social movements.
We assume that the mobilisation of women to run
for political office can also only be understood when employing different
theoretical approaches.
However, the focus of our study is not on the general mobilisation
of women. More specifically, we will analyse the effects that one specific
structural innovation, namely the quota, has on the process of political
For a better understanding of the effects that quotas have on political
participation in the specific cases studied, it is necessary to delineate the
Indian and the German electoral system, the status of the local level, and the
specific quota configuration.
India is a Federal Republic, with national, state and local governments that are
elected through a majority voting system. The status of the local government
had originally only been written into the non-binding Directive Principles of
the Constitution, Article 40 claiming that the states shall constitute local
governments. Realising the growing importance of decentralised government,
the Indian Parliament passed the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution in 1992
(ratified in 1993), which made elections to the rural local governments (in
India called Panchayati Raj; literally ‘Rule of the Five’) man datory.
Quotas for marginalised groups were laid down in 1992 as well. Whereas
reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes (SC; former untouchables) and
the Scheduled Tribes (ST; indigenous population) proportionate to their
presence in the population were already introduced after Independence at
the higher levels of government, the introduction of a 33 per cent quota for
women, also within the other reserved categories, was a rather revolutionary
Yet, that women’s int erests should be represented in local politics had
been discussed already in early reports on the functioning of the Panchayati
Raj Institutions, as in the Balwantrai Methta Report (1957) and the Ashok
Mehta Report (1978). In these documents the co-option of two women in
the institutions was the favoured approach.
A 30 per cent quota for
women in local government had also already been proposed during discus-
sions of the Committee on the Status of Women in India in 1974,
but the
proposal was met with stiff opposition by political parties and also by most
women legislators and was finally not recommended by the report.
The issue lay dormant for more than a decade until Rajiv Gandhi seriously
started to promote women’s issues. In the National Perspective Plan for
Women, 19882000 A.D.
a reservation for women in the institutions of
local government was recommended and followed by Rajiv Gandhi in the
formulation of the 64th Amendment Bill of 1989. The Bill was not passed
by the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) for various reasons that were, however,
not related to the issue of reservations for women, and resurfaced slightly
modified as the 73rd Amendment.
That the 33 per cent reservation for women in the Panchayati Raj made
it into legislation at all has been claimed on the one hand as a result of a
prolonged women’s movement struggle,
whereas a popular discourse
devalues it as an election gimmick by Rajiv Gandhi. In any case, an overall
consensus has not been reached yet since a similar reservation for women
in the Legislative Assemblies and National Parliament (the Women’s Bill)
is heatedly debated and has failed to be passed several times already.
Initially, there was major scepticism among the critics of the quota on the
one hand and overenthusiastic optimism of supporters on the other. The
critics argued that women would be recruited from the elite, that they
would be mere rubberstamps. The supporters, on the other hand, believed
that the women’s quota in the Panchayati Raj would lead to an overall empow-
erment of women.
It is not easy to assess the concrete effects of quota rules especially because
of the persistence of ‘macro myths and micro realties’.
There is no doubt that
the social, political, cultural and economic framework in which women have to
act is detrimental to their active participation in the political institutions, which
leads many to conclude that the quota in the Panchayati Raj is mere eyewash.
Nevertheless, there are at least as many positive reports as negative ones about
the effect of the women’s quota. Most carefully conducted studies show that
some women have been able to use the new space provided to them
though maybe not to the full extent wished for by the promoters. Yet the
question is also about the yardstick for an evaluation of the effectiveness of
the quota. The process has just started and obviously takes time.
Altogether, the recently increasing literature on women in the Panchayati
Raj does not provide a unanimous view on the concrete effects of the quota.
One has to keep in mind that the pattern varies across union states and even
within a single state one can find diverging accounts. This is understandable
given the variations in economic, political, social and cultural factors in
Indian rural communities.
It is also important to understand how the quota is implemented. Since the
Indian political structure is made up of single-member constituencies, these
constituencies are reserved in such a way that only women can be nominated.
With this method, India secures an output of no less than 33 per cent of women
in the Panchayati Raj, and women contest only against other women in these
constituencies. In order not to block constituencies forever, those designated
for women rotate in every subsequent election. Positions are reserved (such
as mayor or chairperson) at all three levels of the Panchayati Raj, namely
village, block and district.
In some states, for example in Orissa, elections
to the two lower tiers take place without parties; only at the district level
are candidates filed by political parties.
In the case of Orissa, women
were usually nominated by their husbands or fathers-in-law, often after the
village community had been consulted. As we shall see later, few women
decided on their own to run for election and most had been ‘talked into it’.
Germany is a federal state with several ‘La
nder’ (states), which in their
nder’ constitutions determine the organisational structure of local
government within their territory. The German municipalities (Gemeinden)
enjoy a particularly strong standing in this federal system, which is protected
by Article 28 of the German constitution.
The German electoral system of proportional representation is a system
fundamentally opposite to the majority system. Proportional representation
means that the number of candidates a party sends to parliament mirrors the
percentage of the total vote going toward that party. This is possible
because the German politicians elected to parliament come from a party
list. Citizens vote for these lists drawn up by the German parties, not for
specific candidates.
In Germany the quota was self-imposed by some parties only. The Green
Party decided on a 5050 rule from its inception at the end of the 1970s
onwards. The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) decreed and
implemented quotas in 1988. Since 1990, it is required that 40 per cent of
candidates on each SPD list be women at all political levels (local, state
and federal). Quotas work in systems of proportional representation through
the party lists. This means that an approximately equal number of men and
women are represented on the party lists. To guarantee that half of the seats
will go to women regardless of how many seats a party wins, the ‘zipper
system’ has been adopted, alternating between one woman and one man in
order to add names to the party list.
Thus India and Germany have adopted two rather different forms of
quotas. The particular form of quota depends generally on the electoral
system: majority voting systems require regulations like reserved seats
for women; systems of proportional representation use regulations like the
5050-rule on party lists. Nevertheless, the effects of quota rules seem to
depend less on the form of the quota, but on the political will and the serious-
ness of its implementation, especially on sufficient sanctioning mechanisms.
Also the perceived legitimacy of women elected by means of the different
types of quota rules does not seem to vary very much. The perceived legiti-
macy depends more on the political culture in a country than on the type of
the quota.
Researching a field that lacks empirical data calls for an open research design.
The concept of Grounded Theory
proposes that with fields lacking empirical
research the starting point of research cannot be theory and a theoretic ally
founded operationalisation, but the empirical material.
Additionally, politi-
cal mobilisation is a process that can be analysed better by using qualitative
methods. Both studies are therefore basically qualitative in nature, although
in the Indian case a quantitative method was also needed because of the
lack of basic information on male and female local politicians, such as the
socio-economic background.
In India, Orissa, a state on the eastern coast, was chosen because it presents
a rather non-conducive setting for women’s political involvement. Orissa is
one of the poorest states of the Indian Union (the poorest in 1996),
and its cul-
tural ideology is quite patriarchal. The rationale for choosing a ‘worst case
scenario’ was whether the quota has an effect, even under bleak circumstances.
In the first round of field research in 1998/99, quantitative data was
gathered from 185 representatives, 105 women and 80 men, mostly located
at the village level and some at the block level. Two blocks had been
covered in the quantitative survey: in one block 100 per cent of the elected
women and in the second block around 80 per cent have been included.
In this respect it was no random but rather a full sampling of the women
present in the Panchayati Raj institutions there. The incumbents had been
elected in January 1997, so they had been in office for two years at the time
of the survey. In a second round of field research in 1999/2000, qualitative
interview data was gathered mainly from the female incumbents, individual
villagers, officials and the village communities. Here, a certain bias in the
selection of women is possible. As often in empirical research, probably the
more forward and active women made themselves available for int erviews.
Since the process in India has just been started and the position of women
in the countryside is not very conducive to their political empowerment,
changes towards political mobilisation that regard even a small number
could be considered to be significant. Nevertheless, the quantitative analysis
based on a full and unbiased sample shows a similar trend as the small and
partly biased qualitative sample; thus it can be assumed that relevant
lessons can be drawn from the data presented.
In Germany, Berlin was chosen because of its comparatively high standard
of gender equity, its relatively women-friendly policies, and its long traditi on
of women’s movements and of female representatives in politics. The research
focused on the western part of Berlin, because the interviews were conducted
in the middle of the 1990s a time when the pattern of recruitment in the
eastern part was still as chaotic as in all East German municipalities. Inter-
views with 30 elected female members of local parliaments in the districts
in Berlin were conducted. The interviewees were members of the Christian
Democratic Party (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green
Party, and the Liberal German Party (FDP). They reflected the basic popu-
lation of all elected female members in this election period according to the
accessible information (affiliation with the local electoral constituency, occu-
pation and actual job). Firstly, women from the (at that time) about ten local
electoral constituencies of Berlin were interviewed to prevent a possible bias
because of local peculiarities. Secondly the occupations and the actual jobs of
all local po liticians in Berlin were analysed and it was ensured that the
interviewees reflect this composition. With these conditions in mi nd the inter-
viewees were selected by a random process. The willingness to be interviewed
was high, only very few of the randomly chosen women refused the request.
Thus a process of positive self-selection, leaving out all women with negative
experiences, can be excluded to a large extent. The interview question-
naire was constructed in a mixture of narrative interviews and additional
open-ended and focused questions.
Because of the small number of interviewees especially in the German
case it will not be possible to prove theses, but only to generate theses. Never-
theless, comparing the results about the mobilising capacity of quota rules in
two very different countries can add to their reliability, although representa-
tive studies would be needed to prove them.
Impact of quotas can most easily be measured by numbers. Although these
effects are not the focus of our research, basic information is necessary. As
expected, the number of women in politics was enhanced by quotas. In
Orissa, elections to the local government at a village level had been held
in 1970, 1975 and 1983/1984. Data on the 1970 election are not available.
In the 1975 election, out of 2,962 mayors 20 were women (0.68 per cent),
and out of 56,720 ward members only 103 (0.18 per cent). In the 1984
elections, only 11 women were elected as mayors out of 3,384 (0.33 per
cent), and 125 out of 67,002 as ward members (0.19 per cent).
Hence, it
is safe to argue that without the quota women would have hardly entered
local politics at all. After the implementation of quota rules the percentage
of women increased tremendously to about one-third today.
In Germany, quotas had a remarkable effect on the numbers of women in
politics as well. In 1973, only 8.3 per cent of members of local parliaments
were women, and in 1983, after the small Green Party with its strict quota
rules had entered the political arena, the percentage had increased to 13.4
per cent. In 1996, after the huge Social Democratic Party had adopted quota
rules as well, the number of women had risen to 25 per cent. Up to now
there is a remarkable difference between parties with quota rules and parties
without quota rules. Yet numbers are only one effect of quotas.
The empirical data about the impact of quotas on the mobilisation of
women are described in the remaining sections. The four main outcomes
can be summarised as:
(a) Quotas encourage women to begin a political career.
(b) Quotas enable women to acquire political skills.
(c) Quotas facilitate in developing sustained political ambitions.
(d) Quotas support non-elite women to join politics.
(a) Quotas Encourage Women to Begin a Political Career
In the Indian as well as in the German study, it became obvious that most
women had no specific political ambitions to begin with. In India, most
women had not even been asked whether they had intentions of running for
a political office. Husbands and fathers-in-law filed their nominations in
many cases, or the women had been pressed by the village communities to
run for election. Out of a sample of 105 women, only 17 (16 per cent) had
at least partly decided on their own to run for elections to the local govern-
ment, whereas nearly three-quarters (78 of 105) had been encouraged by
villagers, and the rest by relatives. The majority of women also had no
prior political experience (89 per cent), such as partic ipating in party politics
or other politically active associations. When asked why they had participated
in this election, most women said that it was because they had been requested
to do so and because they had been encouraged by others.
Surprisingly, most women initially had no interest in politics. Their usual
answer was: ‘There was no scope for women in rural politics, so why should
we have been interested?’ This has changed considerably after they assumed
office. To illustrate this point, one can relate the experiences made by Rita, a
ward member, which echo the experiences of other women as well. Rita was
32 years old when she was elected and she had held no prior political position.
She said: ‘Before I became a ward membe r, I was not interested in politics at
all. This started only after my election.’
In the German sample, the majority of the interviewees became party
members also mainly because already politically active relatives, partners or
friends had asked them to. In fact, women in parties with quota rules had
almost no political ambitions beyond being a member when they joined the
party. Asked about their objectives and aims, typical responses were: ‘I had
no particular aims’ or ‘Sometimes people join a party because they begin a pol-
itical career. But I had no ambitions and goals at the beginning’. Joining a party
was more often connec ted with openness, interest and curiosity than with
aspirations to begin a political career especially in parties with quotas.
Of course non-quota recruitment of women also takes place in politics. But
comparing parties with and without quota rules or elections with and without
reserved seats for women it is obvious that quota regulations increase the
recruitment of women. Non-quota recruitment of women is often restricted
to women deriving from a politically or socially elite background, whereas
the social composition of female politicians in an environment with quota
regulations is more diverse. This topic will be discussed in the chapter
about the impact of quotas on non-elite women joining politics.
To sum up, the existence of quota rules was a crucial factor for the
mobilisation of many women to join a party or the panchayats. Because of
the quota in India as well as in Germany the panchayats or parties, respect-
ively, were looking for women. In both countries, the interviewed local
female politicians would not have started their political career without this
encouragement enforced by the structural innovation.
(b) Quotas Enable Women to Acquire Political Skills
Several studies have found that women do not run for political positions
because they feel they are not qualified. That was also true for the women
from the two samples presented here. Many interviewees in India as well as
in Germany, nevertheless, developed (the feeling of) competency needed to
proficiently serve in a political office.
In Orissa, women felt especially inhibited because of their low educational
qualifications and their lack of public exposure in general. Women usually do
not address men who are not part of their family and are generally not allowed
to enter the public domain. The quota in local politics has opened up an oppor-
tunity for them to legitimately meet the men of their villages and become
involved in village politics. It is difficult to assess the exact percentage of
women who use this opportunity to increase their competences. Nevertheless,
the majority of those interviewed twice had definitely gained in skills and
confidence after a lapse of one year. For example, Rita, the ward member
from the first example, said:
I learned a lot of things because everybody is talking about politics in the
meetings and there are discussions in the panchayat office ... Now I get
to know everything about different government programmes, and I even
receive information from the Collector [highest bureaucrat at district
level]. So I am learning a lot.
Similarly, Babita, a vice mayor from the Scheduled Castes, stated: ‘My
husband is guiding me in everything, and also our sarpanch [mayor] is sup-
porting me and teaching me a lot. From 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. I am going to
the office and learn things like the keeping of records and the essentials of
politics. I am very interested to learn.’
She also started reading the manual s issued by the Panchayati Raj
Secretariat and participated in training courses. The important fact for
developing skills is obviously the hands-on experience while being in
The presence of other women also facilitated necessary political
Furthermore, most women interviewed experienced a rise in
self-esteem. Especially the necessity of speaking in public contributed to
this enhancement. Many reported that they were too shy to raise their
voice in the beginning. But being coaxed by others, they adapted in many
respects. Some really wanted ‘to do something for their villages’, and thus
felt compelled to participate in the political process and learn the ropes in
the job.
For the German case, Miss Berger illustrates the process of gaining
competence (and confidence). After joining the party, she started to get
involved in several political events. At that time, she ‘felt som etimes over-
taxed and not very competent’, but she was supported by the local party
unit. Addit ionally, she started to go to seminars to train herself.
Finally, you begin to think, I want to give a talk and you dare to do it. And
after you have done it, you find out, you really can manage it. Making this
experience several times you get more relaxed and you start to dare to go
even further and take the next steps. I was not a high-flyer, but I found out
that the other politicians are not better than I am.
Encouraged by their colleagues and local party units, many interviewees
learned the skills ‘on the job’ . ‘I had a lot of fears to talk in front of an audi-
ence. But the local party unit wanted me to become a membe r of the local
parliament. So I tried to work on my fears and I had the experience that my
fears disappeared with the training on the job.’ Q2
Similar to the cited female politicians, more than half of the interviewees
started their political engagement without feeling fully competent. It was
especially helpful when competent and long-term members served as mentors
in this period of training. Also a network of members willing to offer support
was useful at this stage. Mainly the stress of women without a political family
background was relieved when helpful party members were available to
answer any questions concerning formal and informal rules and all other
necessary information.
The interviewees especially developed competences in parties with
quotas; about two-thirds of the interviewees from these parties increased
their (feeling of) competence during participation. The interviewees of the
parties without quotas had mostly started with high feelings of competency
often because of a political family background. Skills seldom increased in
these parties.
Hence, one can conclude that in India as well as in Germany women
started to gain confidence in their abilities mostly after they had entered the
political process. During the incumbency period of learning on the job,
encouragement by others, support by mentors and networks seem to have a
crucial influence. This does not mean that there were no differences
between the women in India and in Germany. German women felt, for
example, more confident in a male-dominated arena than the Indian women
and they depend financially and socially less on their husbands. Nevertheless,
the structural similarities were striking. German as well Indian women had to
learn political skills and many did so when quota rules enabled the necessary
(c) Quotas Facilitate Development of Sustained Political Ambitions
It could be assumed that a rather logical outflow of the gain of (a feeling of)
competence is a growing ambition to remain in politics and/or aspire to higher
positions. This was indeed the case in both studies. In India, Babita, for
example, feeling that she had lea rned the rules of the game, aspired
to move ahead: At the beginning of her career she wanted to be a ward
member and learn important things, but being a ward membe r for several
months she aspired to become the next sarpanch (mayor), even if the seat
was not reserved for a woman. Another instance is Nita, the present chairman
of the local government at block level. She is only in her early twenties and
comes from a Scheduled Caste. She is eager to run as MLA (member of
legislative assembly, state level) in her constituency and hopes that the
party will give her a ticket.
Even though some of those interviewed still feel inhibited, especially
because of lack of education and freedom of movement, the majority would
like to remain in politics and quite a number also wish to move to higher
political levels: Only 18 per cent (19 out of 105) do not wish to participate
in politics once their present term is over; 31 per cent would like to contest
for the same position; and a stunning 37 per cent (39 out of 105) would like
to run for a higher office, such as mayor or even MLA (13 per cent were
not able to give an opinion).
Whether all women who want to stay in politics will actually be successful
remains an open question. Firstly, those who want to remain in their position
may perhaps not be promoted again. The reserved constituencies rotate in
every election and men will therefore compete for the then non-reserved
seats. Secondly, those who want to move beyond the local level like Nita
might not get a chance, because neither the State Assemblies nor the National
Parliament has a women’s quota at present. In addi tion, family members have
a strong say in the political career of all women in the case study. This can be
illustrated by the case of Kali, a SC ward member. She said that if her husband
will not allow her to run in the next election, she would have to drop out
which she would regret.
Up to now there has been very little empirical research done on how
women in India will manage and have already managed the transition from
local to state politics. So far not much can be said apart from the fact that
the political system is not very conducive. Major impetus would definitely
be created if the Women’s Bill for an introduction of a women’s quota als o
at the level of Legislative Assemblies and the National Parliament were to
be passed. Without such a quota it will become rather difficult for women to
climb up the political ladder.
In Germany as well, the participation of women in politics, spurred by
the promotion due to the quota, had facilitated their development of
further political ambitions. One woman stated: ‘When I joined the party I
had no ambitions, but today I am in the party executive and I intend to
run for a position in the Abgeordnetenhaus [the House of Representatives
in Berlin].’ To exemplify this further, we return to Ms Thompson. Q3She
said that over time she became more and more involved and realised that
she loved political discussions and political work. The local party unit
elected her several times for Vice Chairman. After three years, fellow
party members asked her to run for a position in the local parliament,
which she did successfully. At the beginning she was proud of being
elected, but after several months she found out that local politicians only
have a minimal influence. Her wish to have a more substantial impact led
to the decision to run for a position in the Bundestag, the national parliament.
Whereas in the beginnin g of her career she was asked to run for an office, her
ambition to become a member of the Bundestag was not the result of
Women developed political aspirations and the idea to begin a poli tical
career during the course of their political activities more often in parties
with quotas than in non-quota parties. In fact, about two-thirds of the inter-
viewed women from the SPD and all women from the Green Party developed
an interest in beginning a political career, whereas in the parties without
quotas the percentage was much lower and almost negligible.
These results cannot be generalised, because the sample size is small. But
another indicator lends substance to the thesis. Detailed analyses of different
German studies on female politicians reveal that successful female party
members often developed political aspirations in parties with quotas.
Conversely, most of the successful female politicians in parties without
quotas had not developed their ambitions, but aspired to political careers
from the begi nning of their membership, mostly supported by their politically
involved family.
Considering advanced political ambitions among local female politicians,
one difference between Germany and India is striking. German parties with
quota rules adopt them on all political levels, from the local to the state and
the national level. German local female politicians who develop ambitions
can pursue a political career more easily than comparable women in India.
Based on the results of our studies it can be summed up that quota rules at
the local level facilitate the developm ent of sustained political ambitions,
whereas the realisation of these ambitions depend at least partly on quota
rules at higher political levels.
(d) Quotas Help Non-elite Women to Join Politics
Women of the elite have a particularly easy time pursuing a political career. A
comparative study scrutinised whether female party leaders came from a
higher social background than male party leaders did.
In fact in most
countries there was a close relationship between the profession of the
parents and the political career: the parents of the female political elite
worked in higher professions and mostly came from a high social class.
Economic, social and educational capital of female leaders’ parents was
significantly higher than those of male leaders.
This fact also holds for politicians at the national and state level in India.
Without the quota system operating there, most of the female politicians up to
the rank of Prime Minister, like Indira Gandhi, were either daughters or
widows (as in the case of Sonia Gandhi today) of influential politicians.
Quotas changed this pattern at least at the local level. It was unexpected
that the quota had an effect on the composition of the political elite. Critics of
the women’s quota in India claimed that it would mainly benefit the elite, since
politically ambitious families would field their women to ‘keep the seat warm’
for the next male competitor. Yet the Orissa sample shows that the female
respondents were mainly not drawn from an elite background, especially
when compared to their male colleagues. Women came from poorer house-
holds, lower castes and with lower educa tional achievement. Women not
only had less of an education than the male incumbents, which could be
expected sinc e educational levels are much lower among women than men
in this region, they also came from households with lower educational
levels, which was ascert ained through data about their husband’s education
and the highest education reached by any parent.
Furthermore, the presumed
influence of ‘political families’ was much less than originally envisaged
(32 per cent of the women vs. 26 per cent of the men came from families
with a political background). In that respect, the women’s quota in Orissa
has introduced new politicians not only in regard to sex, but also to class,
caste and education.
In the German study as well, the parties that had adopted a quota for
women attra cted women from less prestigious backgrounds. Women of
working class origin or non- or even anti-political backgrounds and women
without university degrees were mostly found in parties with quotas.
In contrast, the CDU, the FDP and the SPD before the introduction of
quotas supported especially women with a politically active father or
husband and generally privilege d women with high educational levels and
elite professions.
This is also true when general differences between bour-
geois parties (CDU, FDP) and non-bourgeois partie s, especially the Social
Democrats, are taken into account. Even in the SPD before the implementation
of quota rules Q4particularly women deriving from ‘political party elites’ had a
good chance of being recruited and promoted. But after the introduction of
quota rul es women without a ‘social democratic pedigree’ were also
To sum up, both studies, from India and from Germany, indicate that
quotas may change the pattern of class as well, since without a quota
mainly elite women ente r institutional politics.
The main purpose of this study was to find out the impact of quotas especially
on the mobilisation of politically under-represented groups. Thus, it was asked
whether quotas could be a means to solve the problem of unequa l represen-
tation, criticised by political philosophers as well as by politically margina-
lised groups. This topic was analysed through two case studies on women
in local politics in India and Germany.
It can be claimed without doubt that gender quotas have changed the
political landscape in both countries to a considerable degree. The most
visible change is the numerical one, since women’s presence in the political
bodies was enhanced in both cases. Yet the quota’s impact went much
further, leading to changes in the democratic mobilisation of women.
Firstly, most of the women interviewed began their political careers
without political ambitions and desires. This meant in Germany to join a pol-
itical party and in India to run for a seat in the local government. These
women involved themselves in political activities because they had been
encouraged to do so. In that respect, political participation and running for
an office were not the result of prior existing individual motives or political
ambitions, and in the case of India many did not even have political interests
to begin with.
The second crucial result is that many female politicians enhanced their
(feeling of) competence during incumbency. In both countries, they stated
that they felt shy at the start of their career and not competent, for example
to speak in public. Th is changed considerably after their first experiences
in the political arena, when learning on the job took place in Germany
especially in the parties with quotas. Gains in competence were often facili-
tated by stimuli of supportive colleagues, networks and positive feedback.
Thirdly, once in politics most of the interviewees developed political
ambitions. In Germany, this happened predominantly in parties with quotas.
The empirical evidence from both studies is rather compelling: Most of the
women interviewed wanted to remain in the political process or even
aspired for higher politica l offices.
Considering these results, it appears that conventional participation
theories and models are inadequate to fully analyse political mobilisation
via quotas. Most theories operating at the micro-level postulate that the
development of political interest and ambition usually takes place in the
pre-political arena. Furthermore, in that line of argument the decision to
run for a political office is understood to be the outcome of rational consider-
ations. In contrast, the experiences from such divergent cases as India and
Germany show the mobilisational effects of being in political office, which
was not taken into account in the conventional literature.
In addition, the study shows that neither theories focusing on structure nor
those focusing on individuals and their interests can fully grasp the effects of
quotas on women’s mobilisation. To understand these effects, a dialectical
approach has to be employed, which takes into account the interplay
between structure and individuals: through the structural innovation of the
quota, women are recruited into the political process that otherwise would
not be there. Quotas, whether imposed through political parties or through
legislative action, open up an opportunity for women to become active in
This new structure facilitates changes at the level of the individual:
Once women have entered the political arena, they are likely to develop
political interests, skills and ambitions, which are mainly an outflow of
practice, or learning on the job, enabled by quotas.
The change in recruiting strategies creates options and opportunities for
participation, and following Carole Pateman’s argument this supply creates
its own demand. In her words referring to Rousseau, Mill and Cole: ‘[W]e
do learn to participate by participating.’
The last, but by no means least, important fact about the mobil isational
capacity of the quota is that it also promotes different kinds of women. Polities
or parties without quotas usually tend to promote women from elite and/or
political family backgrounds. By contrast, the female politicians in the politi-
cal institutions (party, local government) with quotas predominantly came
from modest social and economic as well as non-political backgrounds.
This implies that the quota does not only change the political representation
in terms of gender, but also in respect of class, caste or education. Thus,
quotas introduce changes in the political elite that go beyond mere gender.
They lead to a democracy in which politically marginalised groups are
represented in a better way than today by mobilising and helping those
groups to develop political ambitions and enhance their skills and competence.
It can be summarised that quotas have surprisingly similar effects on
mobilising women in countries as different as India and Germany. One
could have assumed that women in the Indian rural communities have
fewer ambitions or feel less competent to begin with, but it is astonishing
that the qualitative remarks of the female local politicians themselves are
amazingly similar to those in Germany. This is not to deny that there are
differences because of divergent social and economic contexts. Some of
the differences have been mentioned in this article. The commonalities, never-
theless, are convincing. On the one hand these results cannot be generalised
because of the relatively small number (but mostly unbiased selection) of
interviewees (see for the discussion of the reliability of our figures the
section on methods and data). On the other hand, since quotas lead to
similar outcomes in two very diverse settings, the thesis that quotas have a
powerful mobilisation potential can be stated with stronger conviction. In
that respect, the results may give direction for future research on the possi-
bility of enhancing the presentation of politically marginalised groups in the
political as well as other arenas.
1. E. Biester, B. Holland-Cunz and B. Sauer (eds.), Demokratie oder Androkratie (Frankfurt/M.
& New York: Campus, 1994).
2. B. Geissel and V. Penrose, ‘Dynamiken der politischen Partizipation und Partizipations-
forschung, Politische Partizipation von Frauen und Ma
geissel_penrose.htm (2003); S. Verba et al., ‘Knowing and Caring about Politics: Gender
and Political Engagement’, The Journal of Politics, 4 (1997), 105172.
3. A helpful global database on quotas for women is provided at
4. See, for example, European Political Science, 3/3 (2004). Q5
5. J. Squires, ‘Gender Quotas: Comparative and Contextual Analyses’, European Political
Science, 3/3 (2004), 519; B. Geissel, Politikerinnen. Politisierung und Partizipation auf
kommunaler Ebene (Opladen: Leske und Budrich, 1999).
6. See, for example, M. Krook, ‘Gender Quotas as a Global Phenomenon: Actors and Strategies
in Quota Adoption’, European Political Science, 3/3 (2004), 59 97.
7. For the positive impact of quotas in terms of numbers, see K. Bunagan et al., ‘The Quota
System: Women’s Boon or Bane?’, Women Around the World: A Quarterly Publication of
the Centre For Legislative Development, 1/3 (2000) Q6; C. Pintat, A Global Analysis: What
Has Worked For Women in Politics and What Has Not’, 197598,
sources/whatworked/pintat.html (accessed 12 Nov. 2001) and the web pages of the Inter-
national Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Gender Section at (2001).
8. S. Carroll (ed.), The Impact of Women in Public Office (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 2001); L. Wa
ngnerud, ‘Testing the Politics of Presence: Women’s Representation in
the Swedish Riksdag’, Scandinavian Political Studies, 23/1 (2000), 67 91; see also
several articles in European Political Science, 3/3 (2004).
9. E. Hust, Women’s Political Representation and Empowerment in India. A Million Indiras
Now? (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2004).
10. Geissel, Politikerinnen. Politisierung und Partizipation.
11. Conference ‘Women’s Quotas in Urban Local Government: A Cross-national Comparison’,
India International Centre, New Delhi, India, Feb. 2003.
12. D. Herzog, ‘Der moderne Berufspolitiker’, Der Bu
rger im Staat, 1 (1990), 917.
13. The importance of the local level for the political involvement of women is widely accepted in
the scientific community nowadays: C. Otsuro, ‘Incorporating Gender Equality at Local Poli-
tics: A Case of Toyonaka’, Political Science & Politics, 37/1 (2004), 58; T. Ogai, ‘Advance of
Japanese Women in Politics: The General Local Election of 2003’, Political Science & Poli-
tics, 37/1 (2004), 58; M.M. Conway, ‘Women’s Political Participation at the State and Local
Level in the United States’, Political Science & Politics, 37/1 (2004), 60 61.
14. B. Claußen and R. Geißler (eds.), Die Politisierung des Menschen. Instanzen der politischen
Sozialisation. Ein Handbuch (Opladen: Leske und Budrich, 1996).
15. E.g., S.M. Lipset, ‘Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development
and Political Legitimacy’, American Political Science Review, 53 (1959), 69105;
K.W. Deutsch, ‘Social Mobilization and Political Development’, American Political
Science Review, 55 (1960), 493 514; S. Verba et al., Participation and Political Equality:
A Seven-nation Comparison (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978); S. Verba
et al., Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1995).
16. O. Niedermayer, ‘Innerparteiliche Demokratie’, in O. Niedermayer and R. Sto
ss (eds.), Stand
und Perspektiven der Parteienforschung in Deutschland (Opladen Q71993), 23051;
O. Niedermayer, ‘Beweggru
nde des Engagements in politischen Parteien’, in
O.W. Gabriel, O. Niedermayer and R. Sto
ss (eds.), Parteiendemokratie in Deutschland
(Bonn: Bundeszentrale fu
r politische Bildung, 1997), 32337; O.W. Gabriel, ‘Politische
Partizipation und kommunale Politik. Strukturen, Bestimmungsfaktoren und Folgen kommu-
naler Partizipation’, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 29/88 (1988), 3 20; O.W. Gabriel and
O. Niedermayer, ‘Entwicklung und Sozialstruktur der Parteimitgliedschaften’, in Gabriel
et al. (eds.), Parteiendemokratie in Deutschland, 277300.
17. E. Wiesendahl, ‘Parteien als Instanzen der politischen Sozialisation’, in Claußen and Geißler
(eds.), Die Politisierung des Menschen, 401 24.
18. B. Sauer, ‘Was heisst und zu welchem Zwecke partizipieren wir? Kritische Anmerkungen zur
Partizipationsforschung’, in E. Biester, B. Holland-Cunz and B. Sauer (eds.), Demokratie
oder Androkratie (Frankfurt/M. & New York: Campus, 1994), 99 130.
19. P. Norris and J. Lovenduski, Political Recruitment. Gender, Race and Class in the British
Parliament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); B. Meyer, Frauen im Ma
bund. Politikerinnen in Fu
hrungspositionen von der Nachkriegszeit bis heute (Frankfurt/M.
& New York: Campus, 1997).
20. Exception: L. v. Assendelft and K. O’Connor, ‘Backgrounds, Motivations and Interests: A Com-
parison of Male and Female Local Party Activists’, Women and Politics, 3 (1994), 77 92. More
research was done on the question of how local female politicians cope with the different tasks in
politics and their family lives (S. Benzler, I. Annies, G. Peterman and C. Pfaff, ‘Frauen in der
Kommunalpolitik. Politikerinnen im Landkreis Gießen’ (unpublished manuscript, Gießen,
1995); I. Grolle and R. Bake, Ich habe Jonglieren mit drei Ba
llen geu
bt. Frauen in der Hambur-
gischen Bu
rgerschaft 1946 bis 1993 (Hamburg: Do
lling und Galitz Verlag, 1995).
21. K. v. Beyme, ‘Politikverdrossenheit und Politikwissenschaft’, in C. Leggewie (ed.), Wozu
Politikwissenschaft? U
ber das Neue in der Politik (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1994), 21 33.
22. M. Kaase, ‘Politische Beteiligung/Politische Partizipation’, in U. Andersen and W. Woyke
(eds.), Handwo
rterbuch des politischen Systems der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Bonn:
Bundeszentrale fu
r politische Bildung, 1997), 4449.
23. D.E. Fowlkes, White Political Women. Path from Privilege to Empowerment (Knoxville: The
University of Tennessee Press, 1992).
24. Geissel and Penrose, Dynamiken der politischen Partizipation; M. Leijenaar, ‘How to Create
a Gender Balance in Political Decision Making. A Guide to Implementing Policies for
Increasing the Participation of Women in Political Decision Making’ (Brussels: Document
of the European Commission, 1996).
25. E.g., B. Hoecker (ed.), Handbuch politische Partizipation von Frauen in Europa (Opladen:
Leske und Budrich, 1998).
26. D. Rucht (ed.), Research on Social Movements. The State of the Art in Western Europe and
the USA (Frankfurt/M: Campus & Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991).
27. The 74th Amendment secured this for the municipalities, for detailed information see, for
example, P.S. Chaudhary, ‘Indian Quota System for Women for the Local Elections’,
World Congress of IPSA, Quebec, 1 5 Aug. 2000.
28. GoI (Government of India), Report of the Team for the Study of Community Projects and
National Extension Service, 3 vols. (Balwantrai Mehta Report) (New Delhi, 1957), 1:127;
GoI (Government of India), Report of the Committee on Panchayati Raj Institutions (Ashok
Mehta Report) (New Delhi, 1978), 179f.
29. GoI (Government of India), Towards Equality. Report of the Committee on the Status of
Women in India (New Delhi, 1974), 303.
30. GoI (Government of India), National Perspective Plan for Women, 19882000 A.D.
(New Delhi, 1988), 164f.
31. The main problem was that non-Congress state governments felt that the Bill vested too many
powers in the Governor and the National Government (B.K. Chandrashekhar, ‘Panchayari
Raj Bill: The Real Flaw’, Economic and Political Weekly, 1 July 1989, 1433 5).
32. E.g., M. Nandivadekar, ‘Reservation for Women. Challenge of Tackling Counter-Productive
Trends’, Economic and Political Weekly, 11 July 1998, 1815 19.
33. S. Rai, ‘Democratic Institutions, Political Representation and Women’s Political Empower-
ment: The Quota Debate in India’, Democratization, 6/3 (1999), 8499.
34. This has been aptly captured in Mukta Banerjee, ‘Women in Local Governance. Macro
Myths, Micro Realities’, Social Change, 28/1 (1998), 87100.
35. The variations in the status of women, economic set-up, kinship structures and political
equations in India are enormous. Roughly sketched, the situation in the north is rather detri-
mental to women’s empowerment whereas the situation in the south (esp. in the state of
Kerala or Karnataka) seems to be more conducive, but also there problems persist. For
various studies undertaken in different states of the Indian Union, e.g., see M. Bhaskar,
‘Women Panchayat Members in Kerala: A Profile’, Economic and Political Weekly,26
April 1997, WS13 WS20; on Kerala see D.K. Ghosh, ‘Women Panchayat Members as
Head of Offices. A Study in West Bengal’, Journal of Rural Development, 14/4 (1995),
35766; on West Bengal see D.K. Ghosh, ‘Grassroot Women Leaders. Who are They? A
Study in a West Bengal District’, Journal of Rural Development, 16/2 (1997), 291 311;
S.G. Gowdan, M.S. Dhadave and M.V.S. Gowda, ‘Developmental Role of Women
Members of Panchayati Raj Institutions. A Study in Karnataka’, Journal of Rural Develop-
ment, 15/2 (1996), 24959; and N. Kudva, ‘Engineering Elections. The Experiences of
Women in Panchayati Raj in Karnataka, India’, International Journal of Politics and
Society, 16/3 (2003), 44563; on Karnataka see S. Kaushik, Women Panches in Position. A
Study of Panchayati Raj in Haryana (New Delhi, Centre for Development Studies and
Action) Q8; MARG (Multiple Action Research Group), They Call Me Member Saab. Women
in Haryana Panchayati Raj (New Delhi: MARG, 1998); on Haryana see T. Honour,
J. Barry and S. Palnitkar, ‘The Quota Innovation, Gender and Indian Politics: Experiences
and Prospects’, Equal Opportunity International, 18/7 (1999), 1 16 (about Mumbai). For a
more detailed bibliography, please refer to Hust, Women’s Political Representation and
36. In less populous states, it is a two-tier system only.
37. This rule is not uniform for all Indian states; in west Bengal, e.g., elections to all the local
bodies take place with political parties. The question of which role political parties should
play in the local government was very controversial right from the beginning of the Indian
Republic. Bhargava distinguishes two positions: the Sarvodaya (welfare for all) school,
following the ideas of M.K. Gandhi, V. Bhave and J.P. Narayan, which argues for a ‘par-
tyless, communitarian or participating democracy’, and the other school of thought that
argues for the participation of political parties in local government (B.S. Bhargava,
Panchayati Raj System and Political Parties (New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House,
1979), 721).
38. On the national level, Germany has a dual electoral system in which two ballots are cast. On
one ballot, German citizens choose a single candidate from each political party. But on the
other ballot they select a party and by selecting the party they vote for the party list. In
local elections the dual system is not used, only a system of proportional representation.
But there is another specialty: in a few ‘Bundesla
nder’ (states), citizens can vote in local elec-
tions for the person they want, no matter what his/her place is on the party list.
39. In countries with a gender equality-oriented political culture any kind of sanctions are less
necessary (e.g., Finland). But few countries fulfil this condition.
40. See, for example, the situation in Slovenia, Finland, Iraq or Afghanistan, described in
European Political Science, 3/3 (2004).
41. B.G. Glaser and A.L. Strauss, The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualitative
Research (Chicago: Aldine, 1967).
42. According to research desiderata, the empirical material is furthermore not to be analysed by
a previously decided theory in order to avoid inappropriately imposing preconceived analytic
constructs on the data. Rather, the approach is developed in the process of the empirical
research by oscillating between theoretical reflections and the empirical data (H. Bude,
Deutsche Karrieren. Lebenskonstruktionen sozialer Aufsteiger aus der Flakhelfer-
Generation (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1987), 107).
43. M. ul Haq, Human Development in South Asia (Karachi et al.: OUP, 1997), 32.
44. A. Devi, ‘Women in the Local-Self Government Administration in Orissa’, Orissa Review
(Sept. 1988), 43 8, proportional calculations by Hust.
45. It is often said that women rarely reveal ambitions, because it does not fit into the
social stereotype of women: K. Flaake, ‘Frauen und o
ffentlich sichtbare Einflussnahme.
nkung und innere Barrieren’, Feministische Studien, 1 (1991), 13642.
However, this was not true for the interviewees. They admitted very openly ambitions
developed during their participation.
46. A study on the effects of local quota rules in four Panchayat Samities in Alwar showed similar
results: ‘[M]any [of the female Panchayat members] had discovered their own talents and
abilities and developed self-confidence.’ Chaudhary, ‘Indian Quota System’, 32. See also
Kudva, who writes ‘in a number of instances, women members participated and governed
through PR institutions because of their experience of being in office (Kudva, ‘Engineering
Elections’, 454; emphasis added).
47. This seems to confirm the theory of a critical mass being important for minorities to overcome
inhibitions (D. Dahlerup, ‘From a Small to a Large Minority: Women in Scandinavian
Politics’, Scandinavian Political Studies, 11/4 (1988), 275 98).
48. A study on the effects of local quota rules in four Panchayat Samities in Alwar showed similar
results: ‘Interest for participation was created through participation.’ Chaudhary, ‘Indian
Quota System’, 31.
49. F. Schwarting, Manchmal hast Du das Gefu
hl, du stimmst nicht ganz’. Erfahrungen von
Frauen in Parlamenten (Mu
nster: Agenda Verlag, 1995), 41f.; B. Schaeffer-Hegel et al.,
Frauen mit Macht: Zum Wandel der politischen Kultur durch die Pra
senz von Frauen in
hrungspositionen (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, 1995), 101; B. Meyer, “Hat sie denn heute
schon gekocht?” Frauen in der Politik von der Nachkriegszeit bis heute’, in M. Bru
and B. Meyer (eds.), Die sichtbare Frau. Die Aneignung der gesellschaftlichen Ra
(Freiburg: Kore, 1994), 369409.
50. See ibid.
51. E.g., V. Mino, ‘Access to and Exercise of Power’, manuscript, Q9World Congress of the
International Political Science Association, Quebec, 1 5 Aug. 2000.
52. Similarly Fowlkes, White Political Women.
53. For detailed information, see E. Hust, Political Representation and Empowerment: Women in
the Institutions of Local Government in Orissa after the 73rd Amendment to the Indian
Constitution, Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics (South Asia
Institute, Department of Political Science, University of Heidelberg, 2002), http://archiv.ub.; and Hust, Women’s
Political Representation and Empowerment in India.
54. This has not necessarily happened everywhere. Many reports confirm the pattern of the ‘beti
biwibahu brigade’ (daughter, wife, daughter-in-law), especially in numerous newspaper
reports but also in studies on Karnataka (see Kudva, ‘Engineering Elections’). However,
there are up to now no systematic comparisons between male and female incumbents.
55. B. Geissel, Politikerinnen. Politisierung, 165 67. One possible reason for this might be an
enhanced feeling of competence, which women from non-elite backgrounds often lack.
Not surprisingly, only women presenting themselves as very competent were able to be suc-
cessful in parties without quotas. Other studies confirm this finding. For example, in the local
party units of the German CDU, those members who were fully convinced of their own
competence were more likely to be promoted (W.P. Bu
rklin, V. Neu and H.-J. Veen, Die
Mitglieder der CDU (Interne Studie der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Sankt Augustin, 1997),
140). Those members without any doubt regarding their own competence were the ones
who were being considered when putting together the party list (I. Reichart-Dreyer, Fu
Methoden, Frauen aus der Politik herauszuhalten und was dagegen zu tun ist (Berlin:
Manuskript, 1994), 3).
56. This result might be comparable to the importance which Tarrow and others attach to struc-
tural changes, captured in the term ‘Political Opportunity Structure’.
57. C. Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1970), 105.
Brigitte Geissel and Evelin Hust
Q1 Ok? need more information (web address?) in a note?
Q2 Is this quote also from the interviewee above?
Q3 Ms Thompson not previously cited by name
Q4 ‘Even in the SPD before the implementation of quota rules... ok, or
do you mean ‘In the SPD even before the implementation of quota
Q5 Note 4 whole issue of European Political Science was it a
special issue?
Q6 Note 7 please supply page numbers for Bun agan et al. article
Q7 Note 16 please supply publisher for Niedermayer and Sto
ss book
Q8 Note 35 is there a date for the Kaushik publication?
Q9 Note 51 paper presented to ...?
... First, we surveyed respondents in Belgium, which has far-reaching gender quotas requiring half of the places on candidate lists to be occupied by women. Although individual political attitudes, especially among women, may be affected by gender quotas and the related higher representation of women (Geissel and Hust, 2005), quotas do not seem to result in gender-equal political ambition, even about two decades after the introduction of the first quota law. The findings are in line with Davidson-Schmich's (2016) results showing a gender gap among potential aspirants, even within German parties using quotas. ...
Women consistently report lower levels of nascent political ambition than men, which causes problems for the recruitment of women in politics. The aim of this study is to better understand the mechanisms behind this gender gap by simultaneously studying the extent to which gender differences in preferences for and perceptions about the typical goals attained through a political career (power, independence and communal goals) can explain gender differences in political ambition. Using data collected among Belgian political and social sciences students ( N = 322), our results provide a strong confirmation of the gender gap in political ambition. We also find substantial gender differences in preferences for and perceptions about goals pursued through political careers. However, these individual-level differences in preferences and perceptions only marginally reduce the gender gap in political ambition, emphasising the need for active political recruitment. Key messages There is a gender gap in political ambition, even among political and social sciences students. Women are less attracted to the independence and power goals of a political mandate than men. Women are interested in achieving communal goals but believe that they are not central to a political mandate. Preferences for and perceptions about power goals explain political ambition but not the gender gap. </ul
... For non-beneficiaries, the implementation of demand-side strategies can increase the competence and quality of male leaders (Besley et al., 2017), protect male's self-esteem under leadership failure (Unzueta et al., 2008), and, if created with non-beneficiary participation, can garner support (Hideg et al., 2011;Lowery et al., 2006). For beneficiaries, demand-side strategies can increase women's expectations of succeeding (Geissel and Hust, 2005), which may strengthen their motivation and ambition to lead. In line with this research, those participants who were frustrated with the perceived threats associated with demand-side strategies for beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries (and how these acted as plausible deterrents to the implementation of demand-side strategies) were also more likely to see demand-side strategies as a promising option to close the gender-leadership gap, the theme which we outline next. ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine female leaders' attitudes toward demand-side strategies to close the gender-leadership gap and discuss implications for organizations. Design/methodology/approach This article describes the process of knowledge co-creation that took place using an engaged scholarship epistemology over 23 interviews with North American women in senior leadership roles. Findings Five key themes related to women leaders' attitudes toward demand-side strategies are discussed. Some felt uncertain or opposed toward these strategies, whereas others supported them. Support for these strategies was dependent on perceptions of backlash regarding the implementation of these strategies and the participants' career stage. Finally, participants acknowledged that demand-side strategies are insufficient in isolation and require additional organizational supports. Research limitations/implications These findings enhance our understanding and provide theoretical refinement of the mechanisms that drive female leaders' reactions to demand-side strategies to close the gender-leadership gap. Practical implications Participants advocated for certain practices to be considered when organizations contemplate the adoption of demand-side strategies. Importantly, participants advocated that the implementation of demand-side strategies would be insufficient unless organizations encourage greater dialogue regarding the gender-leadership gap, that top management support more gender inclusive leadership, and that male colleagues act as allies for women in leadership. Originality/value This article extends past research and theory by integrating the pragmatic perspectives of successful female leaders with previous empirical evidence to illustrate different reactions to demand-side strategies and ways for organizations to manage those in their efforts to close the gender-leadership gap.
... Gender quotas require that women (or men) make up a minimum share of a group, list, or institution. As a form of affirmative action, gender quotas are designed to help women overcome obstacles to their election or appointment, such as cultural stereotypes that make them less likely to aspire to or be selected for to such positions (Dahlerup 2006, Geissel & Hust 2005. Quotas set a specific number or percentage-a threshold-for the selection or nomination of women, distinguishing them from less binding goals, targets, or recommendations. 2 Beyond this basic feature, quotas regulate different institutions and are designed differently. ...
Full-text available
The global proliferation of quotas for women over the past 30 years is both remarkable and consequential. Targeting decision-making positions historically resistant to women’s equal inclusion, the adoption of electoral and corporate board quotas has at times been controversial. After adoption, quotas have influenced women’s numbers, the performance and outcomes of decision-making bodies, and broader public attitudes. In this review, we distinguish among types of electoral and corporate quotas, trace arguments for and against the adoption of quotas, and review research on factors that influence quota adoption across time and space. After outlining the methodological difficulties in demonstrating an impact of gender quotas, we review research that is able to isolate an impact of quotas in politics and business. We conclude by providing several suggestions to ensure that future research continues to advance our understanding of the form, spread, and impact of gender quotas. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Sociology Volume 43 is July 30, 2017. Please see for revised estimates.
... Still others illustrate that women who are elected via quotas are at least as efficient as legislators as their male peers, and even outpace men on some measures of competency (Murray 2010;Weeks and Baldez 2015). In both the developed and developing world, quotas have even been found to foster female politicians' political ambition (Geissel and Hust 2005). Together, these works show that quotas may bring more qualified women into the candidate pool for leadership posts, which could in turn increase the probability that a woman will be chosen to head her party. ...
Full-text available
Though more than 100 countries have adopted gender quotas, the effects of these reforms on women's political leadership are largely unknown. We exploit a natural experiment—a 50–50 quota imposed by the national board of the Swedish Social Democratic Party on 290 municipal branches—to examine quotas’ influence on women's selection to, and survival in, top political posts. We find that those municipalities where the quota had a larger impact became more likely to select (but not reappoint) female leaders. Extending this analysis, we show that the quota increased the number of women perceived as qualified for these positions. Our findings support the notion that quotas can have an acceleration effect on women's representation in leadership positions, particularly when they augment the pool of female candidates for these posts. These results help dispel the myth that quotas trade short-term gains in women's descriptive representation for long-term exclusion from political power.
... 5 A comparable study among U.S. members of Congress by the Center for American Women and Politics (2001) found that female state legislators were "as likely as men to aspire to another political office as well as to leadership positions within their legislatures." Finally, gender parity in progressive career ambitions has been documented in diverse contexts such as Latin America (Schwindt-Bayer, 2011), India (Geissel & Hust, 2005), and Germany (Davidson-Schmich, in press). ...
Full-text available
There is a scarcity of women at the apex of political power, as well as a lack of methods to disentangle the potential sources of this under-representation. This article suggests a four-step method to test for whether women’s under-representation can be explained by the existence of a “glass ceiling.” We emphasize that this concept implies discrimination in promotions within the political organization, that the discriminatory promotions increase in severity at the top levels of power, and that they increase in severity during an individual’s career trajectory. The proposed method is applied to subnational politics in Sweden, a long-standing world leader in women’s descriptive representation. The results support the conjecture that a glass ceiling is hindering elected women’s rise to political power in this context.
Full-text available
More and more countries are adopting quotas to increase group-based equality in the boardroom and the political sphere. Nevertheless, affirmative action in general and quotas in particular remain a highly controversial subject—eliciting negative reactions from privileged groups, while support among minority and lower-status groups is generally higher. Focusing on gender, we take a broad approach to the topic and discuss (a) the effects of quotas and affirmative action on the under-representation of minority groups and on perceptions of their competence, (b) the effects of quotas and affirmative action on organisational performance, and (c) predictors of attitudes towards affirmative action and quotas. We conclude that the benefits of quotas outweigh their costs and that they are an effective way of tackling group-based inequality. We also discuss strategies that can be used to elicit more support among those groups that are particularly critical of quotas.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the reform of institutional forms that frame local government in Portugal, and to put them into a comparative European perspective. The paper addresses the following research question: To what extent have Portuguese local government reforms shown convergence or divergence with the local political leadership models in Europe over the last three decades of democracy? We hypothesized that reforms affected the local government system in different ways, using some of its components and following more explicitly international trends than others. This hypothesis was tested against the model of local political leadership, including the rules governing the recruitment of mayors and local councillors. This study is based on both archival research for the Portuguese case and the literature review for the survey of international trends. The findings indicate the existence of similarities between reforms in Portugal and reforms in other European countries. But they also indicate divergence in some important dimensions of the local government system.
In India, since 1992, quotas for women in local councils are a key policy mechanism to secure gender equality in political participation and foster rural development. Affirmative action measures were expected to particularly enhance women's agency regarding decisions on decentralized service delivery. However, to date, this potentially transformative reform to the local government system has produced mixed results. This study updates identity economics with intersectional and institutional theories to shed light on the agency of elected women representatives (EWRs) in different federal states of India. The findings show that institutions, including social norms, entail specific identity costs that reinforce stereotyped accounts on women's political agency. Additional policy measures are required to address the incurred costs and render quotas for women effective. The analysis illustrates that an identity economics perspective, grounded in feminist thought, can yield valuable insights for investigating women's agency and for designing gender-sensitive policies.
Gender quotas have emerged globally as a key solution for improving women's political representation. Yet in Britain—where they take the form of all-women shortlists (AWS)—they remain contentious, both within and outside political parties. We identify nine common criticisms of AWS in the British context, related to candidate recruitment and selection, party and voter support and the effectiveness of ‘quota women’ as politicians. Using qualitative and quantitative data, we find that these objections do not hold when subjected to rigorous empirical analysis, suggesting that quotas do not pose a threat to ‘merit’ at any stage of the political process.
The central question examined in this article is whether women’s representation through quotas and subsequent participation in the local governance makes a difference in politics. Based on an empirical study of eight Gram Panchayats in the state of Odisha, the article explores whether the women elected members in decentralised government institutions considerably pronounce and document women’s issues and interests. Further, it outlines the overall political attitude and behaviour towards women’s entry and leadership in local politics. Taking insights from a theoretical review of the concept of representation and the issue of quota for women in government, the article narrates the empirical experiences of the attempts towards feminisation of rural politics and public sphere and engages with the larger debate of the implication of such feminisation to bring out transformation in women’s personal life as well as political life. Contrary to the commonly held belief that seat reservation would bring elitists women to politics, the study observed that three-fourth of the women representatives coming through quotas belong to middle and lower castes of society. Further, the findings highlight that association with political families is a trend as common among women as men, and therefore, it would be wrong to have a simplistic understanding that quotas would result in politically influential families putting their women members of the family as proxies in politics.
Unter politischer Beteiligung werden in der Regel jene Verhaltensweisen von Bürgern verstanden, die sie alleine der mit anderen freiwillig mit dem Ziel unternehmen, Einfluß auf politische Entscheidungen zu nehmen (Barnes, Kaase u.a. 1979: 42). Diese Einflußnahmen können sich auf eine oder mehrere Ebenen des politischen Systems (Gemeinde, Land, Bund) richten. Der fortlaufende Prozeß der institutionellen internationalen Vernetzung, in Europa vornehmlich im Kontext der EG, führt darüber hinaus auch zur Einbeziehung transnationaler Regime, konkret z.B. in Form von Wahlen zum Europäischen Parlament.
Parteien als politische Sozialisationsinstanzen und Orte politischen Lernens bilden ein noch weitestgehend unerschlossenes Forschungsgebiet. Weder die Parteien- noch die Partizipati-ons- und auch nicht die politische Sozialisationsforschung haben hierin tiefere Spuren hinterlassen. Dabei lohnt es sich, Parteien in doppelter Hinsicht unter der Sozialisationsper-spektive zu betrachten. Denn einerseits verkörpern sie im Gesellschaftlichen allgegenwärtige Akteure und vielleicht auch Regisseure öffentlicher politischer Kommunikation und Politikvermittlung, wobei sie auf Wählerbeeinflussung und Mobilisierung von Massenloyalität spezialisiert sind. Und andererseits liefern sie nach innen die organisatorische Plattform für Hunderttausende von eingeschriebenen Mitgliedern, die nach allgemeiner Ansicht bei der Entfaltung ihres politischen Engagements gefördert und für die gezielte Einflußnahme auf politische Entscheidungsprozesse trainiert werden.
Die Parteimitgliedschaften und ihre zeitliche Entwicklung werden in neuerer Zeit in der wissenschaftlichen Debatte — aber auch in den Parteien selbst — unter zwei Gesichtspunkten betrachtet: Zum einen werden die rückläufigen Parteimitgliederzahlen im Rahmen der Diskussion um die Krise der Parteien und des Parteiensystems als Indiz für zunehmende Integrations-, Mobilisierungs- und Organisationsschwächen der Parteien gewertet1, zum anderen wird darüber diskutiert, ob Parteimitglieder historisch obsolet geworden sind oder aus demokratietheoretischer wie funktionaler Sicht unverzichtbar bleiben2. Von der Antwort auf diese Frage hängt es ab, ob die reale, seit einigen Jahren bei den meisten Parteien mehr oder minder rückläufige Mitgliederentwicklung Anlaß zu einer Abkehr vom Typus der Mitgliederpartei bietet, oder ob die Ursachen für den Mitgliederrückgang sehr sorgfältig analysiert und Strategien für eine Erneuerung der Mitgliederpartei3 entwickelt werden müssen.
Die Analyse der innerparteilichen Demokratie gehört seit jeher zum Kernbestand der deutschen Parteienforschung, auch wenn sie sich über Jahre hinweg mit diesem Untersuchungsgegenstand nur am Rande beschäftigt hat und sich ihm erst in jüngster Zeit wieder verstärkt widmett1.
Since the policy of women's reservation in representative bodies was not an outcome of long and intense women's struggle, it has enabled the state to hijack the agenda of women's movement. So far the women's movement has not been successful in inducting their spokespersons into the positions of formal power. It has to be understood that reservations per se do guarantee effective participation of women. Absence of overall conducive environment has instead led to trends counter-productive to genuine empowerment of women.
Was bewegt Menschen dazu, sich in politischen Parteien zu engagieren? Angesichts des Mitgliederschwunds der etablierten Parteien1 und der Diskussion um Parteienverdrossenheit2 gewinnt diese Fragestellung in neuerer Zeit immer mehr an Bedeutung. Sie läßt sich allerdings theoretisch leichter beantworten als empirisch. Dies liegt daran, daß wir bei der theoretischen Konzeptualisierung des Forschungsgegenstands auf eine Reihe von Vorarbeiten zurückgreifen können, die, um eigene Überlegungen ergänzt und systematisch strukturiert, ein recht vollständiges Bild von den möglichen Motiven des Engagements in Parteien liefern, während die Informationsgrundlage über die tatsächliche Motivstruktur von Parteimitgliedern — trotz der in neuester Zeit verbesserten Datenlage — noch lückenhaft ist3.