Policy Report

Quotas and targets: how do they affect diversity progress?

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Quotas and targets: how do they affect diversity progress?

Published June 2015

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What are the effects of quotas on organisations and targeted groups? In what circumstances could quotas work most effectively? And when are they most likely to fail? 

We consider the advantages and disadvantages of quotas in this review of existing literature on the topic. The report is mainly concerned with how best to improve the gender balance in the top roles in organisations. It looks at the debate around the EU proposal to introduce mandatory targets to increase the representation of women on company boards. However, the report also reviews evidence from the worlds of politics and education as well as the workplace. It includes analysis of the findings relating to the use of quota systems and reviews the effects of positive and affirmative action in general. The report also considers the factors that influence attitudes towards the use of compulsory quotas.

‘The evidence from our literature review shows that, on balance, the quick wins associated with legislating for mandatory quotas are
outweighed by the potential longer-term disadvantages'.

Content of the report

  • Foreword 
  • Executive summary 
  • 1 Defining quotas 
  • 2 The impact of quotas
  • 3 The impact of female representation and quotas on company performance 
  • 4 What factors predict attitudes towards quota systems?
  • Conclusion 
  • References
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