Quotas and Women’s Representation in Decision-Making Bodies

Fact Sheet No. 1

Government replies to the UN Questionnaire1 for the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action show that countries which have applied quota systems in decision-making bodies, national and local parliaments and political parties experienced a significant increase in women's representation. This is true not only for Europe but in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well.

In the proposed outcome document submitted by the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly, governments agreed that quotas can be used to improve women's political participation. In paragraph 100a of Section IV, governments committed themselves to " set and encourage the use of explicit short and long-term bound targets or measurable goals, including where appropriate, quotas to promote progress towards gender balance including women's equal access to and full participation on a basis of equality with men in all areas and at all levels of public life, especially in decision and policy-making positions, in political parties and political activities, in all government ministries and at key policy-making institutions, as well as in local development bodies and authorities."

1. In terms of sheer numbers, quotas have without question increased the number of women in decision-making positions.

2. Several countries have passed reservation laws for women in national and local legislative bodies:

3. In Latin America, national laws require political parties to reserve 20 to 40 percent of candidacies for women:

Similar minimum-seat quota laws have been enacted at the subnational level as well. For example, quota rules have been adopted in many Argentine provinces and Mexican states.2


4. Some of the most celebrated quota systems in the world are informal, party-led actions:

5. In France, to rectify women's under representation in the National Assembly (10%), in the Senate (5%), in local assemblies (5%) in municipalities or local constituencies (20%), and in mayorships (7%), a constitutional amendment was introduced in June, 1999.

6. Quotas can also be used in executive and other administrative positions.


  1. Report of the Secretary-General, January 19, 2000
  2. Mala N. Htun, "Women's Political Participation, Representation and Leadership in Latin America," Issue Brief, Women's Leadership Conference of the Americas, November, 1998 (www.iadialog.org).
  3. Ibid.