Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 June 2022
The first chapter introduces the book’s key puzzle: do gender quota laws affect policy outcomes for women? Quotas are often viewed as a way to promote not only women’s inclusion but their political interests. Yet, we know very little about whether quotas lead to meaningful policy change for women. The question is crucial given how controversial quotas are, and the questions they often raise about tokenism and backlash. After motivating the research question, the chapter organizes current explanations of identity and political decisionmaking to demonstrate the crucial role that quotas can play in bringing not only more women but added salience to gendered issues. It previews the main argument: gender quota laws will lead to policy change on issues that women prioritize which fall off the main left-right (class-based) dimension, like work-family policies. Quota laws add important salience to these cross-cutting issues that parties would otherwise prefer to ignore. Chapter 1 also provides an overview of the data and cases that provide the empirical foundation of the book. Taking a mixed methods approach, the book pairs statistical analysis of party priorities and government reforms with in-depth qualitative case studies from the cases of Belgium and Austria, and Portugal and Italy.