Katja Möhring, Céline Teney
Contextual Determinants of Citizens’ Support for Gender Equality in Leadership Positions across Europe

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 169
26 p.
ISSN: 1437-8574

This article constitutes the first cross-national comparative study of citizens’ support for affirmative action policies using the example of a binding legal gender quota for company board positions. In contrast to previous studies, we focus on the contextual level and analyse how factors related to political institutions and social structure shape individuals’ attitudes as well as the gap in the attitudes toward such interventionist measures between target and non-target group members. On the basis of multilevel regression analyses of the 2011 Eurobarometer data for 27 European countries, we show that levels of support as well as the gap in support for affirmative action policies vary largely between countries. Contextual factors related to the tradition of equal rights, women’s integration in the labour market, and their visibility in leading positions as the most important determinants of cross-national variation. Our results lead to the overall conclusion that affirmative action policies are more accepted by citizens in countries where gender equality levels are low, whereas it is likely that they create reluctance among citizens in countries with high levels of gender equality. Yet, the results also provide evidence for exposure-based explanations showing that affirmative action policies gain less support when inequalities are less visible in society.