We estimate the short- and mid-term effect of gender quotas in candidate lists on politicians’ characteristics, voting behavior, women’s access to leadership positions, and public policies. We use evidence from Spain, where quotas were introduced in 2007 in municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants, and were extended in 2011 to municipalities with more than 3,000 inhabitants. Using
a Regression Discontinuity Design, we find that quotas raise the share of women among candidates and council members but, within three rounds of elections, women fail to reach powerful positions such as party leader or mayor. Furthermore, quota candidates do not attract more votes and quotas do not have a statistically or economically significant impact on the size and composition of public
finances. Overall, our analysis suggests that quotas fail to remove the barriers that prevent women from playing an influential role in politics.