INTRODUCTION, METHODOLOGY AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE
"There are no female senators," insisted a visitor at a mutual friend's home in Mexico after asking about my purpose for visiting Mexico. The subject of women in Mexican politics has received too little attention by researchers and the general public both in Mexico and the United States. The lack of recent scholarly works on the subject leaves the impression that there are virtually no women politicians in Mexico, or in other Latin American countries. The past twenty years have yielded few studies on the participation women in politics in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Many recent studies have sought to redefine a "feminine" politics and to rationalize women's participation in movements and activity outside of the governmental structure rather than explain the significance of their growing presence within it. In fact, the number of women in Mexican politics is rising at a rate which rivals that of women in U.S. politics. Changes in this group may be grounds to reassess their efficacy and viability as leaders, policy-makers and role models.
In this thesis I will examine how women have penetrated Mexican politics since their enfranchisement in 1954. I will describe patterns in the careers and education of female Mexican politicians, with special attention to women who have achieved elite positions within the Mexican government. Statistical descriptions of the female members of the political elite will be compared to data for male elites and within the group of politicians and administrators in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Mexican national government.
The first part of this thesis will be dedicated to a review of the literature, a brief background outlining women's participation in Mexican politics for the first half of the twentieth century and the description of the nearly 300 Mexican women politicians included in the database that forms the basis of this study.
The last part of this thesis will discuss theories of elite circulation and changes in the composition of Mexican elites and the bureaucratic structure, specifically the rise of technocracy, and how that has affected women's entry into politics. Finally I will discuss the relevance of women's participation in politics, and whether the women who are attaining top organizational positions (elective or appointed) are role models for other qualified and interested women.
The review of literature will show that most recent literature focuses on women and politics in Mexico and Latin America, rather than women in politics and positions of political power. Most literature emphasizes culture and traditional roles to explain the low rate of women's participation in politics, and focuses on voting patterns, grassroots and community activity, and a redefinition of politics from a "feminine" point of view. The most recent systematic study of female politicians in Mexico is now fifteen years old-- an update is desperately needed.
Changes in Mexican society and culture have allowed women to pursue greater education, making it possible for a gradual broadening or redefinition of traditional gender roles and thus allowing more women to pursue political ambitions. A transformation in the bureaucratic structure of the Mexican government, or "technocratization", and consequently in the credentials necessary to access political positions (whether elective or appointed), combined with the increase of female education and changing expectations, may offer more opportunities for political and/or bureaucratic careers for Mexican women.
A quantitative update on the participation of women in Mexican national politics is long overdue and will contribute to the body of literature on female politicians. This study will show the rate and extent of the assimilation of women into elective and appointive positions in Mexican government at the national level, and the rate of growth of the number of women who have attained elite-level decision-making positions since their entry into politics in 1954. (1)
I hypothesize that female politicians will be entering office at younger ages than their male counterparts and the women who entered national political office prior to 1980. The younger female elites are also entering politics at younger ages than their female predecessors and male counterparts. Greater societal acceptance of women's participation in decision-making positions in all spheres permits women to pursue their goals rather than fulfilling traditional gender role expectations before their own ambitions. These younger women are seeking more political experience through participation in parties and organizations.
I also hypothesize that the female politicians will be at least as well educated as their male counterparts and far better educated the women who entered national politics prior to 1980. I feel that this will be the case since women are pursuing higher education and entering more traditionally male-dominated professions in greater numbers during the past twenty years or so.
Finally, I hypothesize that the younger female legislators have more local level elective experience than female elites or older female non-elite legislators. Entering the political structure from the local party or organizational level is one of the most secure footholds for younger politicians, especially women, for whom proven leadership ability combined with education provides credentials that enable them to ascend to key decision-making positions.
Women in Politics: Why Does it Matter?
Much of the literature on women in politics discusses the need to increase the number of women in top decision-making positions, but fails to give reasons for the importance and the impact of women on the political system. Many of these writers seem to assume some kind of universal, pro-woman, legislative agenda will be pursued by the newly elected officials.
While there is a plethora of explanations for the low numbers of women in political office, the reasons given for supporting their increased representation may conflict with basic principles of representative democracy. Traditional liberal democracy operates under the assumption that the people who are elected are representative of that electorate and the citizens are voting based on the ideas held by the party rather than for the individual candidate.
The representativeness of women by female politicians can be placed in at least two categories: descriptive and substantive.(2) Descriptive representation is achieved simply by electing (or appointing) women to public office and may serve to confer greater legitimacy on the political system. It utilizes more of the available political talent and allows women to serve as role models. Substantive representation occurs when the elected or appointed female official acts on behalf of women, submitting or soliciting legislation to improve their political, legal, social or economic status. This is particularly salient to the case of Mexico where many writers argue that the increase in female politicians is irrelevant as long as they continue to come from the socioeconomic elite.(3)
The two basic arguments in support of the increased number of women in political officeholding follow essentially the same lines as descriptive and substantive representation. Paralleling substantive representation, the most commonly heard argument is that women's interests as a group are not represented by the predominantly masculine governments found in most countries.
Women's interests, or gender needs, are further divided into two categories: strategic gender interests and practical gender interests.(4) Strategic gender needs address women's subordination to men and seek to recreate an alternative, more egalitarian and satisfactory organization of society. These needs include the abolition of the sexual division of labor, political equality, removal of institutionalized forms of discrimination such as property rights or restrictions against obtaining credit, provision of legal protection for women against sexual harassment, rape, and the freedom of choice over childbearing.
Practical gender needs are basic needs, such as food, shelter and water and "[i]n reality . . . are required by all the family, particularly children, yet they are identified specifically as the practical gender needs of women, not only by policy-makers . . . but by the women themselves."(5) This often reinforces the sexual division of labor and makes it more difficult for the women to recognize and formulate strategic gender needs.
It has been contended that poor women engage in struggles for practical gender needs more often than strategic gender needs, which are more often pursued by middle and upper class (educated) women. It cannot always be assumed that there exists a set of interests or an agenda that all women support. While the pursuit of strategic gender needs by female politicians benefits all women, many contend that these women fail to address the needs of lower class women whose problems stem from daily privation. Anne Phillips points out, "We cannot jump too easily into the notion that there is an interest of women; and short of women's constituencies or women's elections, there is no clear mechanism for their representation."(6)
The idea that there is a "women's agenda" that is equally pursued by women politicians, regardless of place and time would deny female politicians individuality and agency. In Mexico there are several women who have reached elite-level decision making positions all branches of government who have not participated in the women's sectors of their parties or in other feminist organizations or agencies. These women have chosen careers that present little opportunity for fulfillment of a "women's agenda."
Along the lines descriptive representation, is the argument of democratic justice and resource utilization.(7) Women are, after all, at least one half of the electorate in any given country, and barriers to their participation denies their representation and wastes their talent. Not all male politicians do a good job, so why shouldn't qualified female candidates be sought?
Until women share decision-making positions in politics and business equally with men, it will be impossible to know what the full impact will be. Once parity has been achieved, it is quite possible that those issues that are considered "women's issues" will be equally supported or opposed by politicians of either gender as "family issues." It is not the goal of this paper to discuss the theoretical impact of gender considerations on traditional liberal democratic theory, however:
Gender does and should change the way we think about democracy, but given the pervasive power of existing traditions, it will be some time before the details of the new landscape become clear. We should not too easily presume, however, that all of the features will change.(8) Several studies discuss political systems that are most "woman friendly,"(9) although most studies discuss barriers to women's participation in particular political systems and the potential effect (or need) for quota systems to increase their participation. Many of the barriers to women's participation in politics cited by most studies include women's socialization, constraints of the traditional female role of mother and caretaker, the underrepresentation of women in professions that lead to political careers, and even strong male opposition to the idea of including more women in decision-making positions. Geography and minority representation may also affect the election of women to the legislature.(10)
As a minority, women politicians often feel that they are held to higher standards than their male counterparts. "Women don't have the same right to make mistakes," said Deputy Laura Alicia Garza Galindo, "not all of the male legislators are good legislators, not in any party or in all parties combined."(11) Researchers have shown that women need to have more experience and educational credentials than their male counterparts, especially younger women.(12)
Women may have different motivations for pursuing political office, and a common stereotype of female politicians is that of women's nurturing and altruistic nature. Elsa Chaney's Supermadre: Women in Politics in Latin America explores and exemplifies this type of thinking.(13)
At a recent conference, Chaney made it clear that her thinking on this topic had changed over the years. "If women think running a country is like running a household, then those women are probably in a lot of trouble." She also emphasized the need to challenge women to stay where they are and to "reform, revamp and recreate" the image of women in those fields.(14)
A study of over 3,000 California politicians showed that while women were much less likely than men to base their political involvement on an interest in self-enhancement; this would probably change as more women became integrated in the political community.(15) A survey of men and women holding elective offices in the U.S. in the early 1980s also found that there was no difference in ambition for future public officeholding due to gender.(16)
Women are relative newcomers to politics, and with the exception of Scandinavian countries where quota systems have been adopted, there are few countries where women's representation has reached the level of 15 percent.(17) Putting aside all discussion of the conflicts between the need to increase the representation of women and minorities in democratic systems and the theoretical claims that elected individuals should represent the platform and ideas of the party to which they belong, there is indeed a need to study women in political office. Research has shown that they do indeed practice politics differently in certain aspects. Women represent a largely untapped source of political talent, although they are slowly increasing their presence in politics. However, there is a paucity of recent, quantitative and qualitative research on this subject, particularly in Latin America. Women's Political Participation in Latin America Latin America is a very inclusive term and its use tends to obscure the fact that it includes 29 different countries, with different political systems and histories. It also emphasizes the fact that these countries do have a great deal in common, historically, politically and culturally. However, there is enough similarity between these countries to allow some generalizations about the various factors which influence the political participation of Latin American women. These factors include, but are not limited to: gender roles, the type of political structure, levels of economic participation (which is affected by the type of economy), literacy and access to education, class and mobility, as well as women's attitudes toward politics. In the past two decades, the amount of research on women's political participation in Latin America has increased, but not as much as the research on Latin American women in other areas, such as their legal and economic status, family and sexuality, and malefemale power relations. Research on women's political participation in Latin America has generally been restricted to case studies. Another problem is that many articles within the past fifteen years refer to essentially the same small pool of studies of Latin American women's voting patterns and awareness, particularly in the area of the female political elite of Latin America. The major works on women and political participation, particularly voting and attitudes toward politics, are all several years old, and widely referred to by both North and Latin American scholars. These represent major studies of particular countries or cases, from which generalizations have been drawn and applied for more than a decade and a half. Voting is generally viewed as being only one aspect of political participation and within the Latin American context it often serves more as system reinforcement, or reaffirmation of people's faith in the regime. Abstention from voting or casting blank ballots then constitute significant political acts, as can be casting one's vote for an opposition party in a "oneparty" system such as Mexico.
Especially in the area of voting and attitudes, William Blough's 1972 article on the attitudes of urban Mexican men and women is a prime example of a benchmark study that needs to be updated.(18) He based his study on data gathered by Almond and Verba in 1959. That was immediately after the first presidential election in Mexico in which women were allowed to vote.
The three factors that Blough examined in relation to political attitudes were education, religious feeling, and actual participation (voting). He concluded that there are basically three areas where there was a significant difference of opinion between men and women regarding politics: 1) women were less likely to name "political objects" as something that the Mexican people should have pride in; 2) women had a greater tendency than men to think that the government's actions were harmful; 3) women were less sure of equal treatment at the hands of the government.
In general, women appeared to be more pessimistic than men when it comes to politics. Blough also emphasized that neither education nor "devoutness" had a consistent relationship to attitudes toward the system. This study did not take into account class, urbanrural differences, or even what people expect or want from the political system. There has not been a comparable study done since, and this study has frequently been used as primary evidence of Mexican women's political attitudes. Jaquette considers that the lack of voting and attitudinal studies is due to the general feeling by Latin American scholars that such studies aren't relevant within the Latin American political context, where democratic governments have been replaced by bureaucratic authoritarian structures.(19) With the rise of corporatist theories, such survey research is rejected as behavioristic and associated with pluralism by Marxists who view political events as the result of economic forces and by advocates of Gramsci who place greater weight on cultural factors. Despite such sentiment, attitudinal studies can be valuable tools in aiding social change, because they can show the inadequacies of a political system and can be used to determine what potential support exists for change or alternatives. In general, available studies on Latin American women have shown that they vote less frequently, hold more conservative political views, and are less interested in politics than men. In response, Bonder argues that the key to understanding women's political participation is that "they perceive and practice political activity in conditions and specific ways that do not coincide with the conception and practice of political activity based on the male pattern."(20)
This view is supported by Jaquette who suggests that the reason many Latin American women don't participate in the formal political structure is that they don't feel that it offers clear solutions to their problems.(21) For the majority of women, their most important problems have to do with the economic survival of their family.
However, these conclusions rest heavily on the premise that practical gender needs form the basis of women's political participation in general. Many of these studies are only looking at one aspect of women's participation and creating sweeping generalizations instead of comparing women's participation in social movements and in the government at different levels to determine what kinds of issues women are pursuing and the extent of their commitment and involvement at different levels. The economic survival of the family is no longer guaranteed by the participation of a single household member in the labor force. Women have long contributed to the family income by engaging in activity that has not always been considered "economic participation". For example, women have been responsible for child rearing and domestic labor. Women's economic participation is often used as an indicator of their political participation, particularly their participation in the nonagricultural labor force.
Several researchers show that Latin American women have the lowest levels of economic participation (except for Middle Easterners) than any other group of women, although Latin American women have higher levels of nonagricultural participation.(22) But again, these conclusions are presented without such relevant information such as the definition of economic participation or work. A great deal of study has been done in the past several years on work in the formal and informal sectors in Latin America. Latin American women have traditionally been very active in the informal sector. If the definition of economic participation were redefined to include work in the informal sector, it is quite possible that the correlation between low levels of economic participation and political participation would be rendered irrelevant. The ways women participate economically and politically are also affected by class. Upper and middle class women in particular tend to have greater access to educational and professional resources, as well as familial support in pursuing a public career. Generally, education is correlated with higher levels of political participation, knowledge of, and interest in politics.(23)
Although women's participation in politics is gaining wider acceptance, there is a tendency to view their position as an extension of their traditional role. This phenomenon is termed "supermadre" by Elsa Chaney and refers to the tendency of women to carry over their domestic roles into politics as characterized by their concentration in the areas of education, health and social welfare rather, than finance, labor relations or foreign ministry.(24) Chaney's study is based on her interviews with female elites in Peru and Chile in the late 1960s. She found that while these women wanted to advance their career and increase their professional skills, they wanted to appear as feminine as possible. It appears that the price for advancement in the political sphere for women includes denial of competition with men as well as avoiding feminist issues, which are seen as divisive. Chaney's study is a major work, and as with the study by Blough, there is not really any recent scholarship which is comparable. Rather, this work is heavily relied upon and has not been seriously challenged, although many of the theories of marianismo (extreme female submission or subordination) and machismo (extreme male dominance) as cultural barriers to women's political participation have been all but dismissed. The conclusions of Chaney's work may be valid for her group of women and for a particular time period, but both Peru and Chile have undergone serious political changes in the past several years. Much of the recent work on these countries focuses on feminism and redemocratization. Membership in political parties and organizations is another commonly used indicator of women's political participation. Again, women's numbers tend to be low as compared to those of men. Class is an influencing factor: upper class women participate more than lower class women, although party membership is less frequent than their membership in charitable and religious organizations. Latin American women also participate in professional organizations, some of which are largely composed of women (such as nurses and social workers). Women tend to join organizations that mobilize around specific issues, such as day care centers and access to higher paying jobs. However, women of all social classes have similar barriers to their participation in political organizations, such as lack of time and access to organizations that accommodate their interests and needs.(25) Overall, class and economic factors appear to have the most influence on women's political participation. However, it is difficult to make accurate generalizations about women's participation in politics because so many of the major works were written years ago, and there hasn't been much recent work that is comparable to some of these comprehensive studies.
Information on female political elites in particular is difficult to generalize about because women's participation in the public sphere has increased considerably in the past decade. Latin American women who have mobilized in human rights movements and in revolutionary movements have received a great deal of attention, for example the Argentine mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Sandinista women, Guatemalan human rights activist and recent Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. Women in Mexican Politics
The subject of female politicians in Mexico is one that has not suffered from overexposure in recent years. Certain conclusions that can be drawn from available studies are, first, that Mexican women have not played a large role in the Mexican political elite. Second, female politicians do not differ from their male counterparts in terms of education, socioeconomic class, and the resources to dedicate oneself to a political career full-time.(26)
Riddell interviewed about ten women in "toplevel" party positions in the PRI (including a senator) and the PAN, and concluded that these women had more in common with North American or European female politicians than with Mexican women.(27) Further, Riddell described most of these women as belonging to wealthy families with a long tradition of political participation. Thus, they were not feasible role models for the mostly mestiza Mexican women, the majority of whom lack the access to education and resources to be able to pursue such careers.
Riddell found that these women, like their male counterparts, were "more concerned with women's legal status than with issues of political consciousness and the development of alternative directions for Mexican society," leaving Mexican women's status and role to be redefined by the impact of American industrial capitalism.(28) She concludes that these women served to maintain the status quo, a power which generally exceeded that which they had within the system. However, due to the limited sample and lack of quantitative research of women's legislative activities this study is of little use.
Later studies on Mexican female political elites are equally pessimistic. Camp found that the women in the top political positions generally were part of the top social classes and had followed career paths similar to those of male political elites and concluded that the women appeared to contribute little because they accepted, as had the male elites, the informal rules of the dominant political culture".(29) A few years later, a study by DeSilva(30) reiterated the aforementioned article by Camp nearly word for word, and argues that the increase in levels of participation wasn't enough if the interests of women weren't being represented.
During the past two to three years, there has been an explosion of articles and books on women in U.S. politics, at the national, state and local level. To my knowledge, there has not been a parallel development in Mexican academia. Recent studies focus on women's activism at the grassroots or local level.(31)
There are several helpful histories of women's rights and the feminist movement in Mexico. Morton Ward, Shirlene Soto and Anna Macias provide histories through the middle of this century.(32) Publications from ANFER, the women's section of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, are often helpful. One ANFER publication, Participación política de la mujer mexicana, siglo XX, provides the text of documents, decrees, and legislation related to women's rights in Mexico.(33)
Biographies of female politicians, collections of their speeches, and other documents may prove helpful in some cases.(34) Anthologies of essays by Mexican women in academia and politics contain interesting essays on contemporary problems and issues, but these are not usually highly documented or footnoted.(35)
Party documents, collected speeches, and documents presented at congresses and conventions of feminist organizations and female legislators are much more difficult to come by as they are distributed among participants of the meetings and are not usually found in libraries.(36)
In general, there are few thorough and objective quantitative or qualitative studies of women's participation in Mexican politics, especially in elective and appointive office-holding. In choosing to study elites, I am attempting to fill a void in the literature and to illuminate the structure of power as a whole, from a different perspective. Methodology and Definition of Cases Studied
The information used in this study is based on a database created using biographical information for 283 cases drawn from several sources, including the Diccionario biográfico del gobierno Mexicano (1984, 1987, 1989 and 1993 editions), Mexican Political Biographies, 1935-1993 (3rd edition)(37), and from Camp's SPSS/PC+ database which contained over 2,000 cases of Mexican political elites, including over 100 women. Information gathered in informal interviews with six politically active Mexican women in January 1994 will also be referred to where relevant.(38)
Because the editions of the Diccionario biográfico rely on self-reporting by the officials, several entries could not be used because they were very incomplete and entries for some individuals are missing. Through careful cross-checking between various sources, I have been able to create a thorough data bank of information of the women in the Mexican government since 1954.
The definition of a political elite used by Camp for his male elites, albeit narrow, was strictly followed for this study. Specifically, an individual must have held the legislative position of deputy at least twice or senator once, or the judicial position of supreme court justice, or served in the executive branch as secretary, subsecretary or Oficial Mayor of cabinet level agencies to be considered a member of the political elite. Needless to say, this definition may arbitrarily exclude some women who might be included in the political elite, such as Aurora Jimenez de Palacios, the first woman to hold the position of federal deputy in Mexico in 1954.(39) This facilitated comparison of my sample of 283 female politicians and bureaucrats with the male politicians in Camp's database which includes much more information than could be covered or obtained within the limits of this study. Essentially the same coding scheme was used, with a few differences.
For this study the actual number of female political elites is much lower (79 in this study compared to 125) because Camp had made exceptions for the inclusion of female politicians in his sample that he didn't for the men because women meeting those criteria were under-represented.
Throughout the discussion of female politicians who have held elective office, I have found it useful to divide refer to them as elites and single-term deputies. Additionally, there are differences within the single-term deputies as a group and I have divided this into two subgroups: those who were elected between 1954-1979, and those who were elected after 1980 (the Miguel de la Madrid and Salinas administrations) beginning with the 1982 elections. The year 1979 was chosen as the cut-off for the "pioneer" period because in that year President José Lopez Portillo (1976-82) appointed a woman as secretary of a cabinet level agency for the first time.(40)
A remaining group is composed of women who have held the appointive position of Director General just below the cabinet level in the executive branch, I refer to these women as executive branch non-elites or administrators. Since this group will be used to project the profile of future female elites in the executive branch, only those women born on or after 1940, and who held positions since 1980 have been included. This cut-off was chosen because the group of women who have reached the political elite born from 1940-1949 is the largest cohort compared to all others, dominating the executive and legislative branches. This group of executive branch non-elites is compared to executive branch elites.
Overview of Succeeding Chapters
Chapter 2 will present a brief history of the legal and political rights of Mexican women, beginning just prior to the turn of the century. Beginning in Chapter 3, a profile Mexican female political elites will be presented, compared and contrasted with Mexican female non-elites, and Mexican male political elites, starting with the distribution and rate of increase of female politicians by government branch, and the distribution of female politicians by age group.
The Mexican saying, "la participación de la mujer es la flor del sexenio", which means that the election of women to political office occurs mostly during presidential elections and drops during the mid-term elections, will also be examined in Chapter 3.
Chapter 4 will concentrate on the class, geographic, and educational background of female politicians. It will also deal with party affiliation, local level office-holding and professorships among female politicians in Mexico.
Chapter 5 will discuss recent changes in the Mexican government, especially the growth of "technocracy." Theories of elite circulation will be discussed as they apply to the position of women in Mexican politics.
An examination of female elites in the executive branch will show if there is an emerging group of technocrats. Projections as to whether this trend will continue will be based on a study of female office-holders in the executive branch. Finally, Chapter 6 will present the summary of findings and pose questions for future research.
The Limits of This Study/ What It Is Not About
Having women in politics matters. Many studies claim that women have different legislative priorities and exercise a different style of authority from their male counterparts. In fact, studies of women legislators at the state and national level in the U.S. find that women do make a difference in public policy. "...compared to men, women express more concern for women's issues and accord a higher priority to them; they are also more likely than men to translate their concern into legislative action."(41)
Changing gender roles and a broader acceptance of the legitimacy of women's concerns also reduces the amount of time they have to spend convincing colleagues of their seriousness and allows them to dedicate themselves more to issues at hand.
Also worth examining in future research is the rate of growth of the number of female alternative deputies and its effect on helping to increase space for women's participation in legislatures. Unfortunately all the data on this position are not available, and there is little discussion of this position in the literature on Mexican politics.
Finally, a very important question that will not be addressed here is the viability of current female politicians as role models for the women of their country. As will be discussed below in the review of the literature, previous studies have concluded that the women in elite level positions in the Mexican government were from the same socioeconomic elite as their male colleagues, and, by extension, improbable role models for the masses of Mexican women.
However, despite the domination by the socioeconomic elite over Mexican politics, these women are helping to open more space for women with a wider variety of backgrounds to enter politics. This leads to another question for future research: how do women network? Do they establish independent networks or camarillas and mentor-protege relationships among women? How extensively do they participate in established, predominantly male, camarillas? The exploration of the possible existence of feminine camarillas and their horizontal or vertical linkages to broader camarillas is a topic that could illuminate the workings of women's ascent in the political structure enormously. But again, this is far beyond the potential scope of the present investigation.
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