Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America

Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America

Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America

Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America

Synopsis

The number of women elected to Latin American legislatures has grown significantly over the past thirty years. This increase in the number of women elected to national office is due, in large part, to gender-friendly electoral rules such as gender quotas and proportional electoral systems, and it has, in turn, fostered constituent support for representative democracy. Still, this book argues that women are gaining political voice and bringing women's issues to state agendas, but they are not gaining political power. Women are marginalized by the male majority in office and relegated to the least powerful committees and leadership posts, hindering progress toward real political equality. In Political Power and Women's Representation in Latin America , Leslie Schwindt-Bayer examines the causes and consequences of women's representation in Latin America. She does so by asking a series of politically relevant and theoretically challenging questions, including why the numbers of women in office have increased in some countries but vary across others; what the presence of women in office means for the way representatives legislate; and what consequences the election of women bears for representative democracy more generally. Schwindt-Bayer articulates a comprehensive theory of women's representation that analyzes and connects trends in relation to four facets of political representation: formal, descriptive, substantive and symbolic. She then tests this theory empirically using aggregate data from all eighteen Latin American democracies and original fieldwork in Argentina, Colombia and Costa Rica. Ultimately, this book communicates the complex and often incomplete nature of women's political representation in Latin America.

Excerpt

Since the democratic transitions of the 1980s, women have gained unprecedented access to governments in Latin America. Four women have been elected president of Latin American democracies—Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in Nicaragua (1990–1997), Mireya Moscoso de Arias in Panama (1999–2004), Michelle Bachelet in Chile (2006–2010), and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina (2007–2011)—and many others have run for, and seriously contended, executive office. In 2006, the average percentage of presidential cabinet posts that were held by women was 17%, up from 9% in 1990 (Htun 2000; UNDP 2008), and women have been appointed to ministries with high prestige, such as defense, foreign relations, economics, finance, and agriculture (Escobar-Lemmon and TaylorRobinson 2005).

Women also have gained access to many national legislatures in growing numbers (see table 1.1). In the region as a whole, the average percentage of Latin American lower houses that were female in 2008 was 20%, second only to the Nordic region’s exceptionally large average of 41%. This is a dramatic increase from 12% in 1995 (IPU 1995). The growth in women’s representation in several countries has been particularly notable. In Argentina, for example, the first election of the current democratic period in 1983 resulted in only 4% of those in the Chamber of Deputies being female. By 2001, women comprised 31% of the lower house of congress. Costa Rica, one of Latin America’s longest standing democracies, had only 3 female deputies (5%) in the 1974–1978 Legislative Assembly but . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.