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Democratic Deficits and Gender Quotas

Julie C. Suk
Publication date: 
Tue, 17 Jun 2014

When the European Commission launched its public consultation on gender imbalance on corporate boards, the predominant rhetoric was that improving gender balance in corporate leadership would be good for business and bring economic benefits to help member states recover from the economic crisis of 2008.
In this policy brief, leading equality law scholar Professor Julie C. Suk traces the evolution of the EU proposal, and argues that it has become increasingly concerned with a more comprehensive gender equality agenda as a means of promoting democratic legitimacy of governance in the European Union.
The policy brief charts the opposition to the proposals among member states, spearheaded by the UK, and outlines the conflict between gender quotas and the equal treatment jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.
In the course of the analysis, Professor Suk contends that, rather than promoting women’s employment directly, the Directive serves as a symbolically significant step towards democratizing large private institutions that interact with the public, and in turn, the largely undemocratic institutions of the European Union.