Party penalties for parity: less than meets the eye

Abstract

This article assesses the pre-adoption, adoption, implementation and impact of party parity penalties established in 2002 to promote gender equality in the National Assembly. The analysis argues that while the penalties were implemented and increased over the years and had some success in enhancing women’s numerical representation, from 12.3% of all MPs in 2002 to 38.7% in 2017, rather than being “more than meets the eye,” the parity sanctions were actually far less. The limited scope and authority of the parity penalties and the gender-biased norms of key gatekeepers and political elites in the political parties and the high courts have circumscribed the extent of the progress in women’s numerical representation and the quality of that representation; women MPs in the National Assembly still remain marginalized in a variety of ways in comparison with their male counterparts. Thus, the outcome of the party parity sanctions, in GEPP terms, is “gender accommodation” over “transformation.”

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Much has been already written on the parity movement and the adoption of the policies that followed. See, for example, Bereni and Lépinard (2004), Bereni and Revillard (2007), Bereni (2015), Dauphin and Praud (2002), Baudino (2005), Scott (2005), Opello (2006), Lépinard (2007, 2013, 2016), Murray (2010), Murray et al. (2012), Achin and Lévêque (2014, 2017), Achin et al. (2007, 2019), Lévêque (2018), Durovic et al. (2017), Mazur (2002), Sineau (2004).

  2. 2.

    For the analysis of the diffusion of parity policy from elected offices to other areas of decision-making inside and outside of the state from 2000 to 2014, see Lépinard (2016). For specific analyses of the implementation of quotas on corporate boards, see Blanchard and Rabier (forthcoming), and in upper administration, see Bereni et al. in this special issue and Marry et al. 2017.

  3. 3.

    For more on quotas worldwide, see, for example, Hughes et al. (2019), Krook (2009), Franchescet et al. (2011), Lépinard and Rubio-Marin (2018), and Dahlerup (2006).

  4. 4.

    The Interparliamentary Union has frequently used this phrase when arguing for the importance of not just counting the number of underrepresented groups in parliament, but also examining how much power and influence they actually hold (https://www.ipu.org/).

  5. 5.

    Régine Saint-Criq cited in L’Humanité, March 8th 1997, https://www.humanite.fr/node/153054. Many thanks to Laure Bereni for tracking down this quote.

  6. 6.

    This formal limit was used by the Constitutional Council several years later to ban gender quotas for corporate boards.

  7. 7.

    Interestingly, this argument did not hold in 2015; a new law applied parity to departmental council elections with the SMDP system and introduced men’s and women’s seats in each constituency.

  8. 8.

    According to Ingram and Schneider (1990), there are four general categories of policy instruments, authority, incentive (negative and positive), capacity and learning and communication. For a discussion of these four different types in gender equality policy, see Engeli and Mazur (2018) and their article in this special issue.

  9. 9.

    The GEPP framework presents three different dimensions on which to categorize policy authority: regulatory approach, comprehensiveness and coerciveness (GEPP Guidelines 2018).

  10. 10.

    Since 2002, these parties have fielded between 48 and 49% of female candidates because most of their public funding comes from the first part of public funding calculated on the number of votes received on the first-round elections rather than the second round based on the share of seats won.

  11. 11.

    For more on women’s policy machineries in France under the Fifth Republic, see Mazur (1995a, b) and Lépinard and Mazur (2009).

  12. 12.

    Although sometimes used to mean any feminist-oriented bureaucrat, students of state feminism use the term “femocrat” to refer to any upper-level civil servant who works for a women’s policy agency (McBride and Mazur 2013).

  13. 13.

    She called the state feminist network a “lobby” in the specific process of the implementation and evaluation of the party parity penalties (Interview, May 25th 2018). Latour was in the women’s rights administration since 2002 and since 2015 and has been assistant to the head of the Women’s Rights Service.

  14. 14.

    For more on the low salience of intersectionality and diversity in French feminist politics, see Lépinard (2013).

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Correspondence to Amy G. Mazur.

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Mazur, A.G., Lépinard, E., Durovic, A. et al. Party penalties for parity: less than meets the eye. Fr Polit 18, 28–49 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-020-00111-z

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Keywords

  • Parity
  • Women’s representation
  • Political party sanctions