Women Representation in Legislature: Mexico’s “gender parity in everything”
Legislature holds great significance for consolidated democracies as a directly elected body that should be representative of the citizens’ needs and concerns to apply them to the necessary policymaking process. The “representation” part has been more challenging for a state to achieve rather than the “elected” part. Not even minority groups but women, who make up half of the population, are seriously underrepresented in politics regardless of their positions. Today I aim to talk about the significance of women in the legislative process and take Mexico as a leading example for this goal, you will see why.
Women are not just “not elected” to the important bodies of the government. Women running for elections face an array of problems, starting with the political culture the society has developed over many years. When a woman becomes a candidate, she runs against not only the male candidates but the discrimination and cultural beliefs that limit women’s capability to do such a big thing. Women are seen as the “second sex,” as Simone de Beauvoir describes it, and the already very bumpy road that women candidates go through when being elected discourages many potential and bright candidates that may serve to their country’s advantage in the future.
Studies have shown higher numbers of women in the legislative body generally are associated with stronger attention to women’s rights and problems (UN). Women's representation is a prerequisite for democracy since democracy seeks the source of authority within the people of the state, and women occupy half of that position.
Even though women face many challenges within the parties to be nominated as a potential candidate that citizens may vote for, studies showed that a huge voter bias plays its part. Barbanchon and Sauvagnat (2019) compared votes received by the same female candidate in French parliamentary elections within each electoral district and discovered that votes for women are lower in districts with more conservative gender-role attitudes. This pattern shows itself strongly in Eastern Europe, especially the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or were influenced by the Soviet Union, where the World Values Survey’s (2017-2020) poll results is as below.
Figure 1. Share of survey respondents who report to “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” with the statement “Men make better political leaders than women do.”
As it can be seen, huge proportions of people voted for “agree” or “strongly agree” to the statement “Men make better political leaders than women do.”
Let's look at Mexico specifically. Mexico has been moving from authoritarianism to democracy in the past 20 years since the 71-year authoritarian rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). They have been an example for other developing countries in many things like economic liberalization, trade policies, how to fight poverty, etc. However, they have been setting an incredible example for the whole world when it comes to women's representation in the legislative body. The constitution already mentioned a 40 percent gender quota from the reforms done in previous years; however, in 2014 the quota was replaced with gender parity for the Federal Congress (the bicameral legislature of Mexico). Further in 2015, an electoral reform added that parties couldn’t send women candidates exclusively to losing areas (Piscopo 2021). Later in 2021, Mexico implemented its constitutional mandate for “gender parity in everything” for the first time, becoming the first country in the world to implement gender parity effectively. Today the Mexican legislative body is composed of 64 women out of 127 members in the upper house, the Senate, and 250 women out of 500 members in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (IPU 2023). IPU Parline has a “Monthly ranking of women in national parliaments” list, updated monthly. I advise every reader to check it out and see the numbers for themselves to grab the importance of this topic much more.
Mexico, including many countries (almost all), has a long way to go when it comes to women's representation in all areas, especially in policymaking. Women are definitely held dearly in their roles as mothers and sisters by societies, but the traditional roles imposed on women harm the progression to a “perfect democracy.” I hope that one day all states will embrace the idea of “gender parity in everything” and be the initiators of the movement away from the old collective mindset that is the cause of the gender inequalities in today’s world.
Barbanchon, Thomas Le. "Electoral Competition, Voter Bias and Women in Politics." Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3270570.
"Monthly ranking of women in national parliaments." IPU Parline, data.ipu.org/women-ranking?month=2&year=2023.
Piscopo, Jennifer M. "'Parity in Everything': What Mexico Can Teach Us About Women's Representation." Ms., msmagazine.com/2021/06/04/mexico-midterm-elections-parity-women-representation-politics/. Accessed 4 June 2021.
"Political Participation of Women." UN Women, asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/focus-areas/governance/political-participation-of-women.
"Women in Politics: Why Are They Under-represented?" Free Network, 8 Mar. 2021, freepolicybriefs.org/2021/03/08/women-in-politics/.