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Keywords:

  • France;
  • UK;
  • parity;
  • quotas;
  • women;
  • parliament

France and the UK both have parliaments with one MP per constituency. This electoral system is known not to be conducive to women's representation, and both countries have struggled with low proportions of women in parliament. France's response was to introduce a gender parity law in 2000. Since then, the number of women in the French parliament has almost doubled, but still remains low by European standards and is far from parity. This article considers what the UK can learn from the French experience. In particular, it considers how gender quotas emerged onto the agenda in France, why they were set at 50% and how effective this was, how they were implemented, and why they have not been more successful. The article does not recommend following in France's footsteps, but the UK can take inspiration from France's successes and seek to avoid repeating her mistakes.