Policy makers and organizations have been working toward achieving gender diversity for many decades, but progress has been slow and is perhaps even stagnating. Only 5% of the 500 CEOs on the 2016 Fortune 500 list are women, a mere 27 out of 500. In Canada, despite 3 years of “comply or explain” regulation from the Ontario Securities Commission, only 12% of board seats are held by women.

Notwithstanding extensive research on the topic and widespread diversity initiatives, gender representation remains a persistent problem in corporate leadership and in the workforce.

Because of this sluggish progress toward gender equality, organizations and policy makers are increasingly considering the possibility of implementing quotas, particularly at the level of board directors, to achieve gender parity. While some people remain very concerned about the use of quotas, research suggests they aren’t as scary as people think.


This explainer is based an Oxford-style debate on the effectiveness of gender quotas hosted by the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) in 2017.

View the full research brief here.

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