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About this book

During the past decade governments around the globe have introduced institutional mechanisms to promote the advancement of women, including measures to increase women's political participation rates and to incorporate women's interests into policy-making. Why have they done so? How successful have these initiatives been? What are the emerging agendas facing gender equality advocates now?

In the New Politics of Gender Equality Judith Squires examines the origins, evolution and key features of three strategies that have been employed across the world in pursuit of gender equality – quotas, policy agencies and gender mainstreaming. The author critically examines each strategy to see how far they transform political institutions and agendas and to what extent they lead rather to the assimilation of women in male-defined structures. Squires argues that a multi-pronged approach, drawing on democratic rather than technocratic strategies, offers the best potential for advancing gender equality. She highlights too the limitations of approaches that ignore inequalities among women and the challenges of developing equality initiatives to address multiple and cross-cutting inequalities between groups.

Judith Squires is Professor of Political Theory, University of Bristol. She has written, researched and published widely in the field of gender politics and gender equality.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Institutionalizing Gender Equality

Abstract
Gender equality has gained a central place on the global political agenda over the last thirty years. It is now widely assumed to be a positive ideal and its pursuit is depicted as a core requirement of social justice. Moreover, gender equality is increasingly framed as central to the realization of both modernization and economic efficiency and its achievement presented as a key to good governance. Both rights-based and utility-based arguments have converged to place gender equality high on the agenda of liberal states and organizations.
Judith Squires

1. Equality Strategies: Quotas, Policy Agencies and Mainstreaming

Abstract
The commitment to promoting gender-balanced decision-making, currently espoused by international institutions and national assemblies around the globe, emerged in the face of the persistent under-representation of women globally (Karam 1998). Since 1788 when women first gained the right to stand for election in the United States of America, women’s right to vote and be elected has slowly been recognized throughout the sovereign states of the world. Only a handful of countries continue to refuse women the right to vote and stand for election. Yet women’s active participation in national parliaments is still notoriously low, rising from 3 per cent in 1945 to only 11.6 per cent in 1995. In July 2006 the world average for the percentage of women in national parliaments was still only 16.6 per cent. Increasingly aware of gender imbalances in political representation, political parties and national legislatures across the region have taken steps over the last twenty years to promote women’s access to political decision-making, encouraged by a raft of declarations and directives from international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union.
Judith Squires

2. Making a Difference? Evaluating Impact

Abstract
Have women’s policy agencies, gender quotas and gender mainstreaming made a difference? And if so, what sort of impact have they had? Although the literature on the emergence of these strategies acknowledges the role of the strategic interests of political elites as well as women’s political mobilization to be central, all three measures are generally judged, in the political science literature at least, in relation to the normative aims of the women’s movement rather than in relation to the strategic interests of political elites. Most of the relevant scholarship starts from the premise that they are essentially a means to greater democratic justice (Towns 2003:2). Accordingly, the most commonly adopted criteria of evaluation for women’s policy agencies and gender quotas focus on democratic participation and gender equality, seeking to determine whether the mechanisms increase women’s participation in and access to political decision-making (descriptive representation), and/or transform the policy agenda such that it better represents women and promotes gender equality (substantive representation).
Judith Squires

3. Working Together? Analysing Interrelations

Abstract
While gender quotas, women’s policy agencies and gender mainstreaming have emerged as three significant political equality measures in recent years, the three are clearly quite distinct. Women’s policy agencies, promoted as a global strategy roughly twenty years prior to the focus on quotas and mainstreaming, aim to promote both the substantive and descriptive representation of women, giving individual women greater access to policy-making arenas and promoting women’s group interests in specific policy fields. These functions appear to be disentangled somewhat in gender quotas and gender mainstreaming, with quotas focusing on presence but offering no guarantees in terms of formal mechanisms that this will result in the substantive representation of women, and gender mainstreaming focusing on integrating ‘a gender perspective’ into the policy-making process but offering no commitment regarding the increased participation of women.
Judith Squires, Mona Lena Krook

4. Fair Representation? Quotas

Abstract
Women’s right to participate in public life on an equal basis with men is inscribed in numerous human rights documents, including art. 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and art. 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Given that equal treatment laws have generally failed to address the manifest inequality of outcome in relation to men and women’s political participation rates, affirmative action strategies in the form of gender quotas have emerged as a central mechanism for securing this right, with advocates arguing that a recognition of the special needs of women as a group may be a ‘precondition to the realization of the “universal” human rights of that group’ (Lacey 2004:49). However, while art. 4 of CEDAW specifies that ‘temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination’, much of the controversy surrounding the adoption of gender quotas relates to their perceived repudiation of the principle of equal treatment with respect to equal merit.
Judith Squires

5. Feminist Advocacy? Policy Agencies

Abstract
This chapter considers the operation of women’s policy agencies in relation to two challenges: the fragmentation of the women’s movement and the restructuring of the state. Paradoxically, women’s policy agencies have emerged to represent the voice of the women’s movement within the state just as the women’s movement was fragmenting into a series of diverse groups and loosely aligned networks, with no ideological core, and the state appeared to be being ‘hollowed out’, with its traditional responsibilities being dispersed vertically (to local and supranational institutions) and horizontally (to courts, executive agencies and civil society organizations).
Judith Squires

6. Engendering Governance? Mainstreaming

Abstract
Gender mainstreaming is defended, at a theoretical level, as a transformatory new approach to equality. The central claim made in favour of gender mainstreaming as a gender equality strategy is that it offers a way of introducing gendered perspectives into the construction of equality norms, rendering it potentially more transformatory than those approaches that demand equal treatment in relation to norms that are not themselves questioned, or positive action approaches, which respond to the inequalities that result from structural bias but do not themselves unsettle the norms that generate this bias. Where the existence of false impartiality claims demands either acceptance of partial and discriminatory norms, via an equal-treatment approach, or the assertion of alternative marginalized norms, via a positive-action approach, mainstreaming appears to offer a way of displacing this dichotomy by reworking the norms in a manner more sensitive to the diverse realities of gendered practices. This political equality measure therefore appears, in theory at least, to be more firmly located within a strategy of displacement than are either gender quotas or women’s policy agencies.
Judith Squires

7. Future Challenges: Negotiating Diversity

Abstract
The two most striking challenges now facing gender equality strategies are the reconfiguration of state practices to embrace technocratic modes of governance, and the widespread embrace of ‘diversity’ as a governmental priority. These two developments resonate in different ways with the twin concerns that have haunted the three political equality measures under consideration, namely: whether the mechanisms designed to facilitate women’s increased political equality lead to the assimilation of women into existing political systems, rather than the transformation of those systems; and whether the mechanisms rely on essentializing notions of women and the women’s movement, which fail to recognize a more complex social diversity. While the emergence of a technocratic mode of governance appears to accentuate and entrench concerns about assimilation, the emergence of ‘diversity’ as a central policy problem appears, by contrast, to confront and unsettle concerns about essentialism.
Judith Squires
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