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Research Report


Laura Albornoz Pollmann
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2017
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 28
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)
    Capricia Penavic Marshall

    When former US secretary of state and then-presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Atlantic Council in November 2015, she spoke of Latin America’s strides to achieve gender equality at the highest levels. “It may be predictable for me to say this, but there’s a lot we can learn from Latin America’s success at electing women presidents,” she said. The remark elicited chuckles from the audience, but it pointed to a key dynamic in Latin American politics. The region, with a history of female heads of government, seems to be a rising global leader in terms of notable women in...

  2. (pp. 2-2)

    Women are an emerging force for change across all areas of life in Latin America and the Caribbean. They make up over half (53 percent) of Latin America’s workforce, a rate that has climbed faster than in any other region in the world in the last thirty years.1 Increasing educational and employment opportunities for girls and young women, in particular, have been a major factor driving the region’s economic growth over the past two decades.

    In politics and civil society, women have achieved significant, high-level positions. As of August 2016, the region has seen eleven female heads of state and...

  3. (pp. 3-3)

    Latin America and the Caribbean has one of the most ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse populations in the world.⁸ Its diversity has been a significant factor in generating economic growth and political stability over the past two decades, and it has set countries on a path to a more just, cohesive, and democratic society.

    In recent decades, the region has developed social policies and programs to address traditionally vulnerable sectors of the population, including women. The majority of the countries in the region are also party to international human rights agreements that have sought to promote greater equality in public...

  4. (pp. 4-5)

    Over the past forty years, there have been ten women presidents in Latin America.19 It is a striking number considering the gender gaps in these countries, and it shows not only the strength of Latin American female politicians but also broader societal changes that are on the way—and must be reinforced. However, one question remains: Have these female leaders really paved the way for greater political equality for women?20

    The results thus far are mixed. Although many women have reached the higher echelons of power, the region’s public discourse is still catching up to these advances. Local media, for...

  5. (pp. 6-7)

    Quota systems have been among the most widely employed mechanisms to pursue gender parity in legislative branches around the world and are already part of several Latin American electoral systems—an achievement which cannot be understated.

    Indeed, the quota strategy to increase the participation of women in legislative chambers has advanced broadly. Between 1991 and 2013, seventeen countries in the region approved regulations that established gender quotas on the multi-member legislative electoral lists (see figure 3).26

    The updated 2013 version of the European Parliament study, “Electoral Gender Quotas and their Implementation in Europe,”27 shows that legislated quotas are implemented in...

  6. (pp. 8-10)

    Closing the gender gap is a human rights imperative. It is also a key to greater prosperity. Even if countries simply matched the best equal-rights performers in their respective regions, global GDP would rise over the next decade by an estimated $12 trillion.34 Considering the levels of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, such estimates are hard to ignore.

    Greater equality also makes a difference to the bottom line. A 2016 report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which included information for 21,980 publicly traded companies in ninety-one countries, found that an increase in the share of women...

  7. (pp. 11-12)

    Despite all the advances and efforts toward gender equality in Latin America, the gender gap persists. Achieving full and effective economic autonomy for women (an essential element to overcoming other forms of discrimination) is an uphill battle, especially when economic cycles threaten progress.53 It is also worth noting that in recent years, many of the jobs available to new labor market entrants were not quality jobs, leading to what has been referred to as the “inverse paradox”: greater job creation but an increased unemployment rate.54

    According to CEPAL’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, “today, in our continent, poverty still has the...

  8. (pp. 13-15)

    Three countries stand out for their achievements on women’s issues. Mexico is the region’s second largest economy and gender equality here has increasingly seeped into public policy making. Chile, while a smaller country, has both a female head of state and consolidated gender parity institutions. Bolivia, where women have reached more than 50 percent parliamentary representation (ranking second in the world) has made significant, measurable progress on gender equality.

    On October 27, 2015, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the introduction of a national standard on equal employment opportunities and non-discrimination. The standard was aimed at encouraging employers to implement...

  9. (pp. 16-17)

    Gender equality requires a transformation of women’s participation in the economy and civil society. The case studies demonstrate that continued progress in Latin America and the Caribbean requires a broad and cohesive effort on the part of both government and the private sector— and that leaders of both genders at every level must play an important role in getting there.

    Such an effort can begin with strengthening the tools for collective political action in each country individually. But to be truly effective, it must be accompanied by a coordinated, region-wide strategy that incorporates a response to the wide range of...