Gender quotas, women’s representation, and legislative diversity

Tiffany D. Barnes, Mirya R. Holman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Diversity in the characteristics of political leaders increases the quality of policy, perceptions of legitimacy, and accountability to constituents. Yet, increasing leaders’ diversity proves one of the most difficult challenges facing modern democracy. Efforts like gender quotas shift descriptive representation on the targeted characteristic, but critics argue that women selected via quotas are as homogenous as those selected via traditional methods. In this article, we theorize that quotas (re)conceptualize views of potential political leaders and transform party recruitment networks. In doing so, quotas increase the diversity of all leaders in office. We evaluate these claims with a new measure of diversity and a data set of over 1,700 legislators in Argentinian subnational government. We show that quotas increase the professional and personal diversity of women and men in office over time, suggesting that electoral gender quotas transform parties, political networks, and how women (and men) perceive political office.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1271-1286
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this project was provided by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant SES-0921374, the Ora N. Arnold Fellowship, and a Summer Faculty Research Fellowship from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky. Data and supporting materials necessary to reproduce the numerical results in the article are available in the JOP Dataverse ( An online appendix with supplementary material is available at

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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