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Gender Quota Discourses - The Norwegian Case
Unformatted Document Text:  Table 1 Proportion of women in local councils/committees and leader positions 1975-2007 1975 1979 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 Local councilExecutive boardStanding comm.Chair st. comm.MayorsDeputy mayors 15,4******1,8** 22,815,3****2,616,7 23,822,031,216,23,633,3 31,228,036,118,8 6,538,9 28,528,036,419,612,527,5 32,235,939,420,715,828,9 34,338,044,024,014,933,3 35,837,941,731,0*16,834,6 37,442,0****23,040,6 Source: Statistics of Norway * Source: Eastern Norway Research Institute, 211 out of 430 councils ** Data not available Studying gender quotas Nordic countries represent “the incremental track” to equal representation of women in politics in contrast to “the fast track” (Freidenvall et al. 2006). It took approximately 80 years from women’s enfranchisement for Norway to cross the 30 per cent threshold at the local level. From the 1980ies gender quota was one of the means to create gender balance. Discourses on gender quotas are complex and manifold. Many discursive representations of arguments pro or contra quotas show the simultaneous existence of different understandings of gender quotas, gender equality policies and social justice. These representations create patterns of meaning, which form different gender quota discourses. In this paper I will investigate the various constructions of gender quota by focusing on the question: How do Norwegian politicians at the local levels construe the meanings of gender quotas? It is interesting to focus on the variety of ways in which those who have to implement the rules at the local level construct the meanings of gender quota in local politics. The various constructions will influence the implementation of gender quota policies (Guldvik, 2008). I characterise gender quota policies in terms of quota regimes because the quotas include formal and informal aspects as well as a narrow and a broad approach. According to a narrow approach, a regime is defined as a kind of formal state management, i.e. a way to organise political power. It is a response to a struggle between different interests (Østerud, 1996). In such a narrow approach the quota regime states what to include, how to implement the regime and who the responsible actors are. In a broader approach, a gender quota regime can be defined as a set of customary and voluntary regulations that influence the quota discourses and practices (Ellingsæter, 2001). These are the informal ways by which actors interpret and adapt formal regulations. The effects of the quota regime on women’s political representation depend, firstly, on how the quota regime is designed, and secondly, on how the regime is interpreted and adapted by those who have the responsibility to put the rules into effect. In this paper, I will first describe the formal rules of the quota regime of the Local Government Act according to a narrow approach. Then I will outline and analyse the informal constructions of the meanings of the gender quotas by local politicians in a broader approach. Thereafter, I will discuss the different constructions of the meanings of gender quotas by politicians at the local level, in the light of theories of social justice. 2

Authors: Guldvik, Ingrid.
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Table 1 Proportion of women in local councils/committees and leader positions 1975-2007
1975
1979
1983
1987
1991
1995
1999
2003
2007
Local council
Executive board
Standing comm.
Chair st. comm.
Mayors
Deputy mayors
15,4
**
**
**
1,8
**
22,8
15,3
**
**
2,6
16,7
23,8
22,0
31,2
16,2
3,6
33,3
31,2
28,0
36,1
18,8
6,5
38,9
28,5
28,0
36,4
19,6
12,5
27,5
32,2
35,9
39,4
20,7
15,8
28,9
34,3
38,0
44,0
24,0
14,9
33,3
35,8
37,9
41,7
31,0*
16,8
34,6
37,4
42,0
**
**
23,0
40,6
Source: Statistics of Norway
* Source: Eastern Norway Research Institute, 211 out of 430 councils
** Data not available
Studying gender quotas
Nordic countries represent “the incremental track” to equal representation of women in politics in
contrast to “the fast track” (Freidenvall et al. 2006). It took approximately 80 years from women’s
enfranchisement for Norway to cross the 30 per cent threshold at the local level. From the 1980ies
gender quota was one of the means to create gender balance.
Discourses on gender quotas are complex and manifold. Many discursive representations of arguments
pro or contra quotas show the simultaneous existence of different understandings of gender quotas,
gender equality policies and social justice. These representations create patterns of meaning, which
form different gender quota discourses. In this paper I will investigate the various constructions of
gender quota by focusing on the question: How do Norwegian politicians at the local levels construe
the meanings of gender quotas?
It is interesting to focus on the variety of ways in
which those who
have to implement the rules at the local level construct the meanings of gender quota in local politics.
The various constructions will influence the implementation of gender quota policies (Guldvik, 2008).
I characterise gender quota policies in terms of quota regimes because the quotas include formal and
informal aspects as well as a narrow and a broad approach. According to a narrow approach, a regime
is defined as a kind of formal state management, i.e. a way to organise political power. It is a response
to a struggle between different interests (Østerud, 1996). In such a narrow approach the quota regime
states what to include, how to implement the regime and who the responsible actors are. In a broader
approach
, a gender quota regime can be defined as a set of customary and voluntary regulations that
influence the quota discourses and practices (Ellingsæter, 2001). These are the informal ways by
which actors interpret and adapt formal regulations. The effects of the quota regime on women’s
political representation depend, firstly, on how the quota regime is designed, and secondly, on how the
regime is interpreted and adapted by those who have the responsibility to put the rules into effect.
In this paper, I will first describe the formal rules of the quota regime of the Local Government Act
according to a narrow approach. Then I will outline and analyse the informal constructions of the
meanings of the gender quotas by local politicians in a broader approach. Thereafter, I will discuss the
different constructions of the meanings of gender quotas by politicians at the local level, in the light of
theories of social justice.
2


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