Faculty of Social Sciences
New research

This Argument Makes Young People Supportive of Gender Quotas

Some Norwegian politicians that are skeptical about gender quotas in politics are positive about gender quotas in the leadership of religious organizations, according to new research.

Kvinne med halvalngt hår i grå jakke
«It’s interesting to know whether the arguments used have an effect,» professor Ragnhild Muriaas says.
Jenny Guo Strømsnes/UiB

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Are our attitudes toward gender quotas influenced by the arguments used?

That is something that professors in political science at Department of Government and Department of political science, Ragnhild Muriaas and Yvette Peters have looked into. 

«The effects of gender quotas are well-known, but there has been little research on people's attitudes towards them», Ragnhild Muriaas says. 

Three Main Arguments

The researchers have identified the three most common arguments used for gender quotas:

The Insight Argument: Quotas contribute to greater insight into different types of experiences and knowledge. This leads to better policies and more economic development.

The fairness Argument: Gender quotas are necessary because equal balance between women and men is fair, for example in politics.

The Talent Argument: If recruitment is limited to men only, there is a risk of overlooking or losing talent among women.

To test the weight of these arguments, Muriaas and Peters conducted an experimental survey among the general population and elected politicians.

«Some got questions about gender quotas in politics, some about gender quotas in listed companies, and others about religious organizations,» Muriaas says. 

Difference Between Politicians and the General Population

«Overall we find that ordinary people are most influenced by normative arguments. However, these arguments do not significantly affect politicians, who likely already have a clear opinion on the topic. For them, the organization we suggested the quota for, had an effect,» Muriaas says, and goes on:

«Right-leaning politicians, despite being generally negative toward gender quotas, are more positive about gender quotas in the leadership of religious organizations than in business or politics».

Muriaas and Peters also explored whether support for gender quotas in religious organizations could be motivated by negative attitudes toward immigration or Muslims.

«Despite mainstream churches in Norway having relatively gender-balanced leadership, some smaller and specific churches, including Islamic ones, are particularly exclusive toward women in leadership positions. Our study found that more immigration-skeptical elected officials and citizens are more supportive of quotas in the leadership of religious organizations, while they tend to be more neutral or even opposed to quotas in other areas,» Muriaas says. 

High Support 

Overall, both the general population and politicians had higher support for gender quotas than the researchers expected.

«I think it is interesting that 30 percent of Frp's voters are positive to gender quotas, even though far fewer of their politicians share this view. Additionally, 37.5 percent of Høyre's voters are positive to gender quotas, while almost 50 percent of their elected representatives have this view,» Muriaas says. 

Muriaas and Peters’ survey also revealed the following:

  • Women are more likely than men to already have formed an opinion on gender quotas. More women than men are positive to gender quotas. 
  • What argument is presented to young people matters. Young people are significantly more positive about gender quotas when they hear that quotas provide greater insight, compared to hearing an argument about potentially losing talented individuals. For older people, the argument matters less.


«Why is this insight important?»

«It’s interesting to know whether the arguments used have an effect. When arguing that women bring something different and offer an alternative to men, more people accept gender quotas than if the argument is based on equality and rights. Perhaps this argument is more unifying? It also appears that younger people are more likely to think this way than older ones. Could a shift be underway?» Muriaas asks. 

There are often claims that men and women have very different views on gender equality.

«But there is actually broad support for gender equality among men. We shouldn’t think of this as a battle between genders. Men largely support measures that create gender balance,» Muriaas says. 


Ragnhild L. Muriaas and Yvette Peters: Attitudes to gender quotas: Why and where to adjust gender imbalance in leadership, European Journal of Political Research, 2024. https://ejpr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1475-6765.12680