Ensuring Visibility on the Ballot paper: Why Quotas Work

Louise Nealon


January 8, 2020

The call for gender quotas to ensure equal representation is always controversial. While many women are against quotas, whether for Board membership or political nomination, I believe that a quota will never take away from a women’s merit or ability to be in her chosen job, it simply means she can be part of the consideration set for that role. She will have the ability to be seen and be chosen for her abilities, but if she cannot be seen, she cannot be chosen.

And there is significant evidence from around the world that quotas work.

I have had the pleasure of hearing Irish academic Dr Fiona Buckley, a lecturer in the Department of Government and Politics in University College Cork and a visiting Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, speak to this issue and explain the huge success of political gender quotas in Ireland.

Ireland introduced a gender quota law for candidates seeking parliamentary seats in 2012 partly as a response to calls for political reform following the recession of 2008 – 2013 and to help increase diversity in political leadership.

Crucially, their quotas were (and are) linked to the public funding of the political parties: failure to reach a 30% gender threshold sees a 50% cut to their funding.

The impact and success of the policy were immediate. In its first roll-out at the 2016 general election, there was a 90% increase in women’s candidacy and a 40% increase in the number of women elected. All parties met the 30% gender quota threshold. Globally, more than 22 countries have quotas for gender parity in their candidate selections which has resulted in average increases of over 20% of winning female candidates.

While some people have concerns over quotas, these candidates are all highly qualified for the job. Quotas simply eliminate structural biases that have prevented women and other groups from realising their full potential; the merit is still required to rise to the top. These women were certainly elected on their own merits and experience but most importantly, the quotas ensured they were visible on the ballot paper

Louise Nealon

About Louise Nealon

Award-winning Communications Director, Louise Nealon, helps purpose-led organisations and minority groups that support humanity, to be visible and heard – in order to create positive change in the world.

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