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March 1996
272 pages  

6 x 9
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Gender Bias and the State
Symbolic Reform at Work in Fifth Republic France
Mazur, Amy
A study of symbolic reforms in France that address (or don’t address) equal employment policy for women.

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Amy G. Mazur is C.O. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Washington State University, Pullman.
“[Mazur] presents a minutely detailed account of how, in Fifth Republic France, a small policy community failed to achieve more than lip-service commitment to equalizing pay and working conditions for women. . . . [Her] rich description is valuable.”—Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

“Mazur's in-depth case study of the limitation of equal employment policy in France provides important documentation and analysis regarding symbolic reform over several decades.”—American Political Science Review

“Presents theoretically grounded research that employs both qualitative and quantitative methods to incorporate gender within comparative policy analysis. . . . This contextually rich study of French equal employment policy provides a theoretical answer to an important puzzle: why governments choose to make symbolic reforms which are 'meant to do nothing.' . . . The book leaves us with a useful analytic tool for examining the problem of symbolic policy formation, a problem which has for too long afflicted women's policy.”—Women and Politics

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Political Science/International Studies

This is the first systematic study of French policy regarding equal employment for women. Mazur asks why policy makers choose to make symbolic reforms. Is there a certain set of conditions particularly conducive to the formation of symbolic reform? If symbolic reforms are meant to do nothing, why do governments allocate limited resources to them? Mazur examines five legislative proposals, dating from 1967 to 1982, three of which resulted in legislation: the 1972 Equal Pay Law. the 1975 Equal Treatment Law, and the 1983 Egalité Professionelle Law. These five case studies reveal the continuity over three decades of “symbolic” reform, reform that does not solve the problem it was designed to address.


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