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Scott Taylor presents the argument.

Wednesday 21 February 2018
Boardroom 4th Floor
Dr Scott Taylor; University of Birmingham


Basic ‘body counting’ evidence indicates that women are still under-represented demographically in professional and organisational positions of power, status and authority in the UK. Quotas are a frequently debated intervention to increase representation in specific settings such as politics and corporate boardrooms. We know that when mandatory quotas are implemented they always result in significant change in terms of numerical representation. However there is very little analysis of quotas and their effects through accounts lived experience, to inform further development of it as an approach to provoking greater organisational or professional inclusion. Here we provide a detailed empirical account of the UK’s only legal quota system, implemented within the British Labour party through the mechanism of All Women Shortlists for General Election candidate selection in vacant parliamentary seats. We shed light on the cultural dynamics of quota promotion, implementation, and obstruction. Our abductive case analysis focuses in particular on one moment during this two decade long experiment, in the Welsh Blaenau Gwent constituency national and regional elections during the period 2003-2006. Our analysis suggests that quotas should be understood as a radical means of challenging ‘sticky’ sexism in organisations, and presented as such. We argue that the progressive foundation of quotas provides a clear rationale for action that could mediate resistance to the overarching purpose they serve of improving demographic representation and widening cultural inclusion.

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