Gender Quotas as Strategy

Exploring the Relationship Among International Perceptions of Democracy, Transnational Influence, and Female Representation in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Paige Ariana Hill Temple University


Do countries that adopt parliamentary gender quotas do so as strategy in response to global pressure to improve the international perception of their democratic progress? Rwanda’s 2000 constitution called for a quota, and since then there has been a trend across Sub-Saharan Africa to “fast-track” women’s legislative representation. There has been a significant amount of literature on the use of quotas as signaling devices by autocratic regimes to indicate democratic progress. I argue that there is a gap in the scholarship on whether or not strategic gender quotas are efficient tools in achieving the regime’s intentions of appearing more democratic by the international community. I explore this relationship through both a case study of Rwanda as an extreme sample case, and descriptive analyses of certain data across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Freedom House freedom scores. Using statistical test methods and comparing sample groups of countries that have and have not adopted quotas, I find evidence to substantiate prevailing theories of signaling. Countries that adopted quotas had higher percentages of women in parliament, ranked higher for female representation, and saw their freedom scores improve more over time, compared to the countries that did not have quotas. Further findings are assessed.