More than 100 countries have a gender quota, or an effort to increase gender equality and representation, in their political system. Many opponents of gender quotas argue that women elected via quotas are not always the most qualified candidates; the quotas may displace qualified men; and the quotas are not compatible with meritocratic principles and incentives. However, despite the years of debate, exactly how gender quotas affect the competence of elected officials – whether women or men – has rarely been studied.
Why are there so few women in highly paid careers as chief executives and, more generally, in finance, business, science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Analysing Danish data on young people whose educational and professional lives have been tracked over two decades since they started high school, this research suggests that part of the reason lies in restrictive bundling of courses, which deters talented young women from acquiring advanced mathematical skills. Changing the learning environment and designing the curriculum to identify and foster young women with high mathematical abilities would attract more of them and help to reduce the gender pay gap.