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Gender Quotas and Women's Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina
Unformatted Document Text:  17 diputada noted that women with strong opinions were always called locas. 50 These labels can undermine substantive representation as process. Some women become unwilling to associate themselves with feminist initiatives for fear of being marginalized as a result. As one deputy noted, some women believe “it limits them to dedicate themselves to women‟s rights themes, so they prefer a public profile that is more expansive.” 51 If there are fewer women willing to associate themselves with feminist initiatives, then those legislators who do choose to engage in substantive representation as process may encounter greater difficulties finding allies, thereby making substantive representation as outcome even less likely. In sum, the bill introduction data, legislative success data, and interview data all support our hypothesis that legislated candidate gender quotas can generate mandate effects under certain conditions. Even those not perceiving a mandate effect recognized that quotas have transformed the legislative agenda. Despite women‟s success in transforming the legislative agenda, they have not succeeded in transforming legislative outcomes. The main factors inhibiting legislative success are institutional, namely party leaders‟ and executive control of the legislative process and informal norms that entrench gender bias. As a complicating factor, the quota law has also created perceptions about “mujeres de”—legislators who are less serious about policymaking and less likely to be committed to women‟s rights. While the data cannot confirm that label effects undermine substantive representation as outcome, many interviewees believe that negative stereotypes about “quota women” reduce women‟s ability to build solidarities and to accumulate power and influence. Conclusions and Directions for Future Research We have used the Argentine case to explore women‟s substantive representation. Our main contribution to the theoretical literature is clarifying the concept of substantive representation by analytically separating two aspects that are often conflated: substantive representation as process, wherein legislators change legislative agendas, and substantive representation as outcome, wherein women‟s rights laws are adopted. As the Argentine case demonstrates, these two aspects of substantive representation do not always occur together. The distinction also allows researchers to determine more precisely the factors that shape both aspects of substantive representation. We show that where quota campaigns generate mandates, improved substantive representation as process is likely. Yet, gender quotas cannot change the institutional rules and norms that govern the legislative process, meaning that quotas cannot guarantee improvements in substantive representation as outcome. Legislatures may be unequal playing fields for women who enter as newcomers and who face higher barriers to empowerment. Our research provides a number of directions for future research on gender quotas and substantive representation. First, researchers could explore mandate effects in comparative contexts to determine whether the factors we have identified (domestic mobilization and consequentialist arguments) are necessary for mandates to emerge. Researchers could also test the durability of mandates, exploring whether the increased legislative activism on women‟s rights is sustained over time. Finally, our findings point to the need for future research into label effects. We showed that many political actors perceive labels to matter, and future studies might investigate whether labels do impact women‟s legislative roles. Researchers might conduct surveys that explore perceptions of “quota women,” compare rates of legislative success between

Authors: Franceschet, Susan. and Piscopo, Jennifer.
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17
diputada noted that women with strong opinions were always called locas.
50
These labels can
undermine substantive representation as process. Some women become unwilling to associate
themselves with feminist initiatives for fear of being marginalized as a result. As one deputy
noted, some women believe “it limits them to dedicate themselves to women‟s rights themes, so
they prefer a public profile that is more expansive.”
51
If there are fewer women willing to
associate themselves with feminist initiatives, then those legislators who do choose to engage in
substantive representation as process may encounter greater difficulties finding allies, thereby
making substantive representation as outcome even less likely.

In sum, the bill introduction data, legislative success data, and interview data all support our
hypothesis that legislated candidate gender quotas can generate mandate effects under certain
conditions. Even those not perceiving a mandate effect recognized that quotas have transformed
the legislative agenda. Despite women‟s success in transforming the legislative agenda, they
have not succeeded in transforming legislative outcomes. The main factors inhibiting legislative
success are institutional, namely party leaders‟ and executive control of the legislative process
and informal norms that entrench gender bias. As a complicating factor, the quota law has also
created perceptions about “mujeres de”—legislators who are less serious about policymaking
and less likely to be committed to women‟s rights. While the data cannot confirm that label
effects undermine substantive representation as outcome, many interviewees believe that
negative stereotypes about “quota women” reduce women‟s ability to build solidarities and to
accumulate power and influence.

Conclusions and Directions for Future Research

We have used the Argentine case to explore women‟s substantive representation. Our main
contribution to the theoretical literature is clarifying the concept of substantive representation by
analytically separating two aspects that are often conflated: substantive representation as process,
wherein legislators change legislative agendas, and substantive representation as outcome,
wherein women‟s rights laws are adopted. As the Argentine case demonstrates, these two
aspects of substantive representation do not always occur together. The distinction also allows
researchers to determine more precisely the factors that shape both aspects of substantive
representation. We show that where quota campaigns generate mandates, improved substantive
representation as process is likely. Yet, gender quotas cannot change the institutional rules and
norms that govern the legislative process, meaning that quotas cannot guarantee improvements in
substantive representation as outcome. Legislatures may be unequal playing fields for women
who enter as newcomers and who face higher barriers to empowerment.

Our research provides a number of directions for future research on gender quotas and
substantive representation. First, researchers could explore mandate effects in comparative
contexts to determine whether the factors we have identified (domestic mobilization and
consequentialist arguments) are necessary for mandates to emerge. Researchers could also test
the durability of mandates, exploring whether the increased legislative activism on women‟s
rights is sustained over time. Finally, our findings point to the need for future research into label
effects. We showed that many political actors perceive labels to matter, and future studies might
investigate whether labels do impact women‟s legislative roles. Researchers might conduct
surveys that explore perceptions of “quota women,” compare rates of legislative success between


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