Can Gender Quotas Help Our Girls?

Recently we talked on the blog and on Facebook about a study that was done about the difference in educational priorities for girls in areas of India where there are gender quotas for women in politics versus areas in India where there are no women in power. The differences were obvious. This post led to a discussion about the benefits of gender quotas. Girls can’t be what they can’t see, and quotas force women into positions where they can set examples for girls.

This theory was taken a step further in research done closer to home that went beyond politics and right into the effects of gender quotas in areas of science, technology, math and engineering (STEM). But currently, especially here in the United States, women are still consistently underrepresented in corporations, STEM careers as well as politics.

Yet women’s educational achievements have been surpassing men for years. In 2009 57% of all enrolled college student, were women. Theories attribute the reason for the disparity between women as students and women in the field’s corporations, STEM careers, politics and more must happen for one of two reasons.

  1. Discrimination, pure and simple.
  2. Women are less interested in being competitive than men.

Well there is a new study out that focuses on the second reason and how there is actually a lot of validity to it. The study has found that with policy based initiatives women’s participation increases. The study involved 360 undergraduate students broken into groups of 6—three women and three men. It focused on three different methods of affirmative action in a number of math competitions with rewards.

  1. A quota system was implemented, requiring that a certain proportion of the winners be female;
  2. The highest-performing woman was given preferential treatment in one, while in the other, if a tie occurred in the competition, the woman was always selected;
  3. The competition was repeated until a certain fraction of the winners were women.

This poses an interesting look at the cycle we keep finding ourselves in. Girls can’t be what they can’t see. What they can’t see what they can be, if there are no women already there.

So again I pose the question, do you think there is a place for gender quotas or stronger affirmative action laws regarding gender? Is that the key for inspiring the SheHeroes of tomorrow?

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