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Abstract

Recently, U.S. activists, scholars, and policy makers have turned their attention to one notable effort to address the gender gap in management: gender quotas for corporate boards of directors. Twelve European countries have pioneered quotas in this context. France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium now have mandatory quotas ranging from 30%-40%. Spain, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Austria, and Slovenia have voluntary quotas, and Germany and the EU are considering legislation to mandate quotas. Gender quotas for corporate boards represent an intriguing option, even if the case for quotas is not airtight. The argument for gender quotas rests on a number of empirical propositions, all of which remain contested. Scholars cannot yet show definitively whether gender quotas shatter the glass ceiling or improve board decisionmaking or business performance. Indeed, critics worry that quotas could produce a backlash, if female appointees are tokens or if female directors are untrained or inexperienced, but these claims, too, await further empirical investigation.