Gender Quotas Database

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Western Europe

France has a Bicameral parliament with the use of voluntary party quotas and legislated quotas for the single/lower house and upper house and at the sub-national level. 215 of 577 (37%) seats in the Assemblée nationale / National Assembly are held by women.

At a glance

Structure of parliament Bicameral

Are there legislated quotas

For the Single / Lower house? Yes
For the Upper house? Yes
For the Sub-national level? Yes

Are there voluntary quotas?

Adopted by political parties? Yes
Is there additional information? Yes

Single / Lower House

Assemblée nationale / National Assembly

Upper House

Sénat / Senate

Quota at the Sub-National Level

Voluntary Political Party Quotas*

* Only political parties represented in parliament are included. When a country has legislated quotas in place, only political parties that have voluntary quotas that exceed the percentage/number of the national quota legislation are presented in this table.

Additional information

France was the first country in the world to introduce a compulsory 50 per cent gender parity provision. Political parties are required to ensure the equal representation of men and women on their lists of candidates for most elections. The first major impact of the quota was in 2007, when the number of women in parliament rose to 18.5 per cent (Murray 2012: 27).

The quota provisions differ depending on the electoral systems applied for different legislative levels. The allocation of most seats in the Senate, at the sub-national level and for the European Parliament is based on proportional representation lists, while the elections for the National Assembly are based on a majority system in single member districts. The quota regulation provides for 50 per cent representation of each sex on the list for candidates for proportional representation lists and requires parties to alternate male and female candidates on their lists. For single member districts, only the top candidate on each list has the possibility to get elected—that is, women would need to occupy top seats on 50 per cent of the winning lists in order for parity to be reached.

The first attempt to introduce legal quotas occurred in 1982, when a quota bill was passed for the elections to municipal councils. However, it was overturned by the Constitutional Council in 1982 as discriminatory (Krook, et. al. 2006: 210; Sineau 2008: 52). Parity was finally successfully legislated through the constitutional law of 1999, and the adoption of the electoral legislation in 2000.

Implementation of legislated quotas for elections of the National Assembly has been marked by notable challenges due to the system of single-member constituencies where parties have often resisted the implementation of the gender quota provisions even in the presence of financial sanctions. The combination of the list proportional representation system and the parity requirement, together with the sanction of invalidation of lists, has been noted as a combination leading to better compliance by parties at the local level (Sineau 2008: 54).

However, during the period of 2013-2015, France’s sub-national governance structure and the local electoral system have gone through a major change. Amendments to the electoral code, related to the election of the departmental councils, (Article L 191 of the Electoral Code) state that voters in each canton of a department elect two members (a male and a female). The law requires that alternates of each candidate should be persons of the same sex as their main candidates and should be presented in a tandem manner as well. According to Evans and Ivaldi, “France’s proactive attempts to achieve gender parity across its representative institutions …will by definition produce exact parity” (Evan and Ivaldi, 2015). Based on the results of the March 2015 departmental elections, half or 2054 of the 4,108 councilors are women.

Furthermore, in parallel to the introduction of the “tandem” nomination rules (“binôme” as it is termed in French); a restructuring of the old system has been initiated. “The Map of cantons was redesigned in early 2014. It will allow a more equitable representation of each canton in number of inhabitants per elected. From 4035 cantons in the last elections, the new map is composed of 2054 cantons [for a total of 4108 seats to be filled], each represented by two elected [female and male team], departmental councilors in a single vote in 2015” (Dossier de presse.). The new electoral system could be described as a two-round, first-past-the-post design.

To explain in greater detail, “…to be elected in the first round, the pair must obtain at least an absolute majority of votes (over 50 %) and a number of votes equal to at least 25 % of registered voters.[…]If no pair is elected in the first round, there shall be a 2nd round. The two candidates who led in the first round can be maintained. The following pairs can be maintained only if they have obtained a number of votes equal to at least 12.5% of registered voters. The pair that gets the largest number of votes (relative majority) in the second round is elected. Once elected, both members of the duo perform their duties independently of the other.” (comprendre ce qui change,

So now, each of the 100 departments has about 20 cantons. Cantons serve as territorial units for electing departmental councilors, the number of which has risen from 4,030 to 4,108 in the recent sub-national governance reform. In 2011 only 717 out of 4,030 councilors (18%) were women (Annexe 11 - Les statistiques (au 1er décembre 2014).


Legal Sources:

  • Constitution of France - Link
  • Electoral Law - Link
  • Law on financial transparency in political life - Link
  • Gender Quota Law - Link

Other Sources:


Additional reading

  • See the latest updates on France on iKNOW Politics
  • Baudino, C. 2005. ‘Gendering the republican system: debates on women’s political representation in France’, in Lovenduski, J. et al (eds) State Feminism and Political Representation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 85-105.
  • Bird, K. 2003. ‘Who are the Women, Where are the Women, and What Difference
    Can They Make? Effect of Gender Parity in the French Municipal Elections’, French Politics, 1, 1: 5–38.
  • Bird, K. 2003. ‘Who are the women? Where are the women? And what difference can they make? Effects of gender parity in French municipal elections,’ French Politics, 1. pp. 5-38.
  • Green, M. ‘La Parité – To Be or Not to Be?’, paper presented and the European Consortium of Politics Research, Joint Sessions of Workshops, Edinburgh, March–April 2003.
  • Jenson, J., Valiente, C. 2003. Comparing Two Movements for Gender Parity: France and Spain, in Banaszak A. L., Beckwith K., D. Rucht (eds.) Women's Movements Facing the Reconfigured State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Murray, R. 2003. Was the low number of women elected to France’s National Assembly in 2002 indicative of the failure of parity as a policy?, MRes Dissertation, London: Birkbeck College.
  • Bird, K. 2002. ‘Does parity work? Results from French elections,’ Feminist Studies 28:3. pp. 691-698.
  • Opello, Katherine A. R. 2002. Ideas and Elections: Explaining the Timing and Nature of the French Socialist Party’s Gender-Based Quota. Ph.D. Diss., New York University.
  • Sineau, M. 2002. ‘Institutionnalisation de la parité: l’expérience francaise’, in J. Ballington and M.J. Protais (eds) Les femmes au parlement: Au-dela du nombre, Stockholm: International IDEA, pp. 121–32.
  • Sineau, M. 2002a. ‘La Parité in Politics: From a Radial Idea to a Consensual Reform’ Isabelle de Courtivron. Beyond French Feminisms. Debates on Women, Politics and Culture in France, 1980-2001. New York and London: Palgrave/St. Martin Press.
  • Agacinski, S. 2001. Trans. Lisa Walsh. Parity of the sexes. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Gaspard, F. 2001. ‘The French Parity Movement.’ Jytte Klausen and Charles S. Meier (eds.). Has Liberalism Failed Women? Assuring Equal Representation in Europa and the United States. New York: Palgrave.
  • Giraud, I. and Jenson, J. 2001. ‘Constitutionalizing Equal Access: High Hopes, Dashed Hopes?’ Jytte Klausen and Charles S. Meier (eds.). Has Liberalism Failed Women? Assuring Equal Representation in Europa and the United States. New York: Palgrave.
  • Lenoir, N. 2001. ‘The Representation of Women in Politics: From Quotas to Parity in Elections.’ International and Comparative Law Quarterly 50, no. 2. pp. 217-247.
    Lipietz, Alain. 1994. ‘Parité au masculin.’ Nouvelles questions féministes 15, no. 4. pp. 45-64.
  • Sgier, L. 2001. ‘Analysing Gender Quota Policies: France and Switzerland.’ Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, University of Kent at Canterbury, Kent, UK, September 6-8.
  • Sineau, M. 2001. Profession: Femme Politique. Sexe et pouvouir sous la Cinquième République. Paris: Presses de Sciences Politique.
  • Allwood, G and Wadia, K. 2000. Women and Politics in France 1958-2000. New York: Routledge.
  • Jennings, J. 2000. ‘Citizenship, Republicanism and Multiculturalism in Contemporary France’, British Journal of Political Science, 30: 575–98.
  • Lovecy, J. 2000. ‘ 'Citoyennes à part entière’? The constitutionalization of gendered citizenship in France and the parity reforms of 1999-2000.’ Government and opposition 35, no. 4. pp. 439-462.
  • Siim, B. 2000. Gender and Citizenship: Politics and Agency in France, Britain, and Denmark. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Amar, M. (ed.). 1999. Le Piège de la parité: Arguments pour un débat. Paris: Hachette Littératures.
  • Haase-Dubosc, D. 1999. ‘Sexual Difference and Politics in France Today.’ Feminist Studies. 25, no. 1. pp. 183-210.
  • Wisler, D. 1999. ‘Parité politique: la diffusion d’un principe’. Swiss Political Science Review, 5:1, pp. 110-114.
  • Gaspard, F. 1998. ‘Parity: Why Not?’ Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. 9, no. 2. pp. 93-104.
  • Louis, M-V. 1998. Trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage. ‘Introduction: 'Actualité de la parité.’’ differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 9, no. 2. pp. 106-109.
  • Martin, J. (ed.). 1998. La Parité: Enjeux et mise en oeuvre.Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail.
  • Mossuz-Lavau, J. 1998a. Femmes/hommes pour la parité. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.
  • Mossuz-Lavau, J. 1998b. ‘La parité à la française.’ Swiss Political Science Review: 4:2, pp. 137-144.
  • Praud, J. 1998. ‘La seconde vague féministe et la féminisation du Parti socialiste français et du Parti québécois.’ Politique et sociétés 17, no. 1-2. pp.  71-90.
  • Scott, J.W. 1998. ‘'La Querelle des Femmes’ in the Late Twentieth Century.’ differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 9, no. 2. pp.  70-92.
  • Favoreu, L. 1997. ‘Principio de igualdad y representación política de las mujeres. Cuotas, paridad y Constitución.’ Revista español de derecho constitucional. 17, no. 50. pp. 13-28.
  • Hochedez, D. and Maurice, C. 1997. ‘Règles et réalités européenes.’ Pouvoirs- revue franc. D’études constitutionnelles et politiques. pp. 77-90.
  • Majnoni d’Intignano, B. 1997. ‘Changer de stratégie?’ Pouvoirs – revue française d’études constitutionelles et politiques 21, no. 82. pp.  105-114.
  • Badinter, E. 1996. ‘Non aux quotas de femmes’, Le Monde, 12 June.
  • Nouvelles questions féministes: Le parité ‘contre’. 1995: 16, no. 2.
  • Le Doeuff, M. 1995. ‘Problèmes d'investiture (De la parité, etc).’ (Investiture Issues (Parity, etc.). Nouvelles questions féministes. 16, no. 2. pp. 5-80.
  • Ozouf, M. 1995. Les mots des femmes: Essai sur la singularité française, Paris: Fayard.
  • Sineau, M. 1995. ‘Parité et principe d’égalité: le débat français’. Ephésia (Collective ed.) La place des femmes: les enjeux de l’identité et de l’égalité au regard des sciences sociales. Paris: La Découverte.  pp. 518-523
  • Trat, J. 1995. ‘La loi pour la parité: une solution en trompe-l'oeil.’ Nouvelles questions féministes 16, no. 2. pp. 129-139.
  • Varikas, E. 1995. ‘Une répresentation en tant que femme? Réflexions critiques sur la demande de la parité des sexes.’ Nouvelles questions féministes 16, no. 2. pp.  81-127.
  • Nouvelles questions féministes: Le parité ‘pour’. 1994: 15, no. 4.
  • Gaspard, F. 1994. ‘De la parité: genèse d'un concept, naissance d'un mouvement.’ Nouvelles questions féministes. 15, no. 4. pp. 29-44.
  • Henry, N. 1994. ‘Gender parity in French politics.’ Contemporary review. 265. pp. 86-89.
  • Viennot, E. 1994. ‘Parité: les féministes entre défis politiques et révolution culturelle.’ Nouvelles questions féministes 15, no. 4. pp.  65-89.
  • Appleton, A. and Mazur, A. G. 1993. ‘Transformation or Modernization: the Rhetoric and Reality of Gender and Party Politics in France.’ Lovenduski, J. and P. Norris (eds). Gender and Party Politics. pp. 86-112.
  • Gaspard, F., Servan-Schreiber C., and Le Gall, A. 1992. Au pouvoir, citoyennes!: Liberté, égalité, parité. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
  • French Parliament website,

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