Do women politicians require stronger credentials to prove their competence? Are social and geographic origins more important to female to male politicians? Or, are the backgrounds and careers of female politicians becoming more like those of their male colleagues? This chapter discusses variables which influence the individual's chances of entering a government career. Trends toward convergence in the origins, credentials, and careers of female and male politicians will also be examined.

Socioeconomic origins are useful in determining one's chances for entering politics, and are key to identifying patterns among those who attain elite positions. Due to this study's limits, the parents' occupations is used to define social class background. Birthplace is also an important factor because it reveals patterns of regional recruitment and illuminates the importance of urban as opposed to rural birth for those who would aspire to political leadership.

Education, especially at the post-secondary level, has long been an elite privilege. "In Mexico, as elsewhere, education thus functions as a critical determinant of career opportunity-- what Max Weber has called 'life chances' --and educational attainment becomes a valuable indicator for assessing the social requisites of rule."(1) Educational credentials have become the most important key to gaining access to positions within the Mexican government. Level of education and profession can be used to approximate the socioeconomic class of an individual and to predict her future mobility.

Place of education is crucial because it can provide important opportunities for friendships and contacts among colleagues and professors that may later prove valuable as reverences, mentors or employers. And, because a high percentages of female officials (both elected and appointed) have held positions as university professors, this will be examined to determine what link teaching may have with government office.

Other factors which may affect the continued political career of an ambitious woman include party affiliation and office-holding at the local level. Pursuing leadership positions within the party and active involvement in local level politics may be more important to women to gain proven experience. These factors can help indicate the representativeness of the female office-holders relative to Mexican women in general, to predict the likelihood of vertical mobility for certain sub-groups within the sample, and to predict the make-up of future female office-holders.

Social Class Origins and Family Background

Family background and socioeconomic class origins are an essential aspect of the study of politicians. The occupation of the parents and the place of birth of the female politicians can illuminate certain socioeconomic circumstances which may engender certain benefits or advantages.

Class plays an important role in shaping individuals' lives. People from identifiable social classes are conditioned by common experiences and are inclined to share a set of common assumptions that shape their attitudes, behavior and motivations.(2)

Table 4-1: Region of Birth (%) of Politicians and Population by Region for All Mexicans

                                    Female   Female
                Male     Female     Deputies Deputies   All Men        All Women
                Elites   Elites
                                    (1954-79)(1982-91)  (1990)         (1990)
                (N=1843) (N=79)     (N=51)   (N=127)	(N=39,878,536) (N=41,262,386)

Federal District  18.8     26.6       11.7      15.7      9.9           10.4
East Central      14.8     11.4       11.7      12.6      13.6          13.7
West              15.3     13.9       15.6      17.3      13.2          13.3
North             14.9     19.0       13.7      16.5      17.0          16.5
South              9.0     10.1        7.8      11.0      12.6          12.3
Gulf              12.7     10.1       15.9      11.8      11.0          10.9
West Central      13.3     7.6        23.5      15.0      22.7          23.0
Foreign            1.2     1.3   

Key: East Central: Hidalgo, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala, Zacatecas; West: Aguascalientes, Colima, Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Baja California del Sur; North: Baja Californa del Norte, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Tamaulipas; South: Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca; Gulf: Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan, Quintana Roo; West Central: Guanajuato, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos.

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies Project data bank, Tulane University, New Orleans LA, 1994; 1990 General Census of the Population, Regional Populations, reproduced in Consejo para la Integración de la Mujer, Programa de Trabajo (Mexico, n.d.).

Other, less tangible benefits are also associated with one's class and parents' occupation. The child of a government official could benefit from contact with an established network. Her parents' influence as well as the informal knowledge of the "rules of the game" that she picked up along the way would be advantages.(3)

Previous studies have shown that Mexican politicians represent the middle and upper classes.(4) Camp found that 75 percent of women compared to 66 percent of the men came from middle and upper class backgrounds.(5)

Camp concluded that family involvement in politics was a dubious connection at best.(6) However, the involvement of one or more family members in politics might provide incentive and opportunity for other family members to pursue government careers. For example, a sibling in a minor administrative post might not be able to provide access to a top position, but would be able to help with learning informal rules, hierarchies, and political gossip. A thorough analysis of the class origins cannot be pursued within the confines of this study. However, an approximation of the socioeconomic backgrounds of the women included in this study can be made using their parents' occupations and rural/urban origins as a guide.

As discussed above, occupation and education are often valuable indicators of socioeconomic class and the occupation of one's parent(s) provides advantages in the pursuit of education and career. Geographic origins also are a determinant since cities play such an important role in Mexican public life and in access to higher education. State capitals, and especially Mexico City, provide an atmosphere where contacts with potential mentors and/or patrons can help shape an aspiring politician's career.

Fortunately, information on at least one parent's occupation was available for 216 of the women included in my data base. Of those women, 83 percent listed their parents' occupation as professional, middle class, or landowner. Most of the women (n=198) listed information for both birthplace and parents' occupations. Of that group, 7.5 percent reported rural and 76.8 percent reported urban birthplaces. The minority of women politicians who claimed peasant parents (15.7 percent) breaks down into 3.5 percent born in rural areas and 12.2 percent who were born in urban areas.(7)

Regional origins can provide insight into recruitment patterns and illuminate the importance of cities. An approximate comparison to the Mexican population overall can be made against the distribution of the population by region. This illustrates how representative the backgrounds of the female politicians are when compared to their male peers and Mexicans generally (Table 4-1).

Interestingly, the regional origins of the women are not totally dissimilar from those of the men. Both groups appear to represent the state populations rather closely with the exception of over-representation of the Federal District and the under-representation of the South and West Central region. The Federal District figures prominently for both female elites and male elites, and together with the Western and Northern regions accounts for 60.4 percent of the female elites, and 49 percent of the male elites.

The geographic origins of both groups of female single-term deputies show little difference in comparison to the distribution of all Mexican women. This is to be expected since deputies represent states based on population. However, the more recent group of single-term deputies over-represents the Federal District a little and slightly under-represents the West Central region. This might indicate that there are more opportunities and/or more politically ambitious women in the capital; or it might show that parties are trying to attract the votes of women by putting more women in the ballot.

The predominance of the Federal District as region of origin among female elites is slightly deceiving. Of the 21 female elites born in the Federal District, 12 of them include executive branch elites who never held an elective position. This small group accounts for more than half of the 79 female elite members who were born in the Federal District. This also brings to light another interesting aspect-- all of the other female elite members have held some type of elective office except for this small group of 12.

Excluding this minority group, the percentage of natives of the Federal District for the rest of the female elite population drops to 13.4 percent; the percentage of Federal District natives for all single-term deputies is about 14.7 percent. Both of these groups only slightly over-represent the Federal District, which is home to just under 11 percent of all Mexican women according to 1990 census statistics.(8)

Urban-Rural Birthplace

Interestingly, there is little difference in predominance of urban origins of the male elites and the female deputies (Figure 4-1).(9) Camp found that women were generally from urban areas and tended to over-represent state capitals when compared to both male elites and the general population.(10) He further notes that urban birthplaces are one more variable which has narrowed the pool from which Mexican Politicians emerge.(11) While this may not affect their policy orientations, it does have an effect on education, involvement in political activity and socioeconomic class origins which do. My findings partially confirmed this-- female elites do over-represent urban areas compared to their male peers, but all groups over-represent urban areas compared to all Mexicans in 1990.

It is interesting to note that the group of women who held the post of Director General have the highest rate of urban birthplace. The extremely high concentration of urban-born female office-holders in this group is largely due to the centralized nature of the Mexican government-- the government offices (and the jobs) are all in Mexico City with some branch offices in regional or state population centers. However, women do make up a slightly higher percentage of the population in the Federal District, 52.2 percent in 1990.(12)

There are several reasons why more female elites have urban birthplaces, but most important is greater access to channels of recruitment in cities, especially through education. Women have increasingly relied up on educational credentials to obtain access to key government positions.

Academic Preparation of Female Officials

Educational credentials are increasingly the key to entry-level positions on the government career path, especially in the executive and judicial branches, and have always been essential for recruitment to elite level positions. ". . . Mexico's universitarios have maintained a steady grip on upper-level offices, regardless of the era or the president."(13)

Women's enrollment in university and graduate education has grown significantly since the late 1970s, while their enrollment in normal schools (teacher training schools) has dropped by nearly half over the past decade. The number of women enrolled in normal schools dropped from 130,034 in 1980 to 71,365 in 1992. This drop was slightly less drastic for men enrolled in normal school, from 69,963 in 1980 to 39,610.(14) This drop might be part of a trend away from normal school education as preparation for primary and secondary school teachers.

The number of women enrolled in university courses at the bachillerato level, roughly the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in the United States, more than doubled from 354,177 (33 percent) in 1980-81 to 834,080 (47 percent) during 1992-93. The number of schools granting bachillerato degrees also doubled, from 1,938 in 1980-81 to 4,812 in 1992-93, providing more opportunities for women and other minorities to obtain post-secondary education. Likewise, the number of women enrolled in graduate programs (educación superior) increased from 316,576 in 1980-81 to 532,119 in 1992-93.(15)

Level of Education

Must women have higher levels of education than men in order to advance in a political or administrative career? Camp predicted that the female elites would be better educated than their male peers, but was unable to confirm that.(16) He found that 62 percent of the women in the political elite lacked professional degrees. That may have been a premature conclusion since women had only recently entered politics and their level of participation was much lower than it is now. Overall, only slight differences in the level of education are seen between male and female office-holders. Greater differences are seen within the women as a group, specifically between elite members and non-elites (Table 4-2).
Table 4-2: Highest Level of Education
                                     Female Single      Female 
                   Female   Male     Term Deputies      Director 
                   Elites   Elites   (1954-79)(1982-91) General
                   (n=77)   (n=1766) (n=51)   (n=124)
Primary             0        7.0     10.2      0          0
Secondary           6.5      5.8     10.2      3.2        0
Preparatory         3.9      6.1      8.2      6.5        0
Normal             11.7      4.8     46.9     15.3        1.5
University         42.9     51.0     18.4     57.3       39.4
Post Professional  10.4      6.2      2.0      5.6        6.1
M.A.               13.0      5.3      2.0      6.5       30.3
PhD or LlD          9.1      7.4      2.0      3.2        22.7 
Medical Degree      2.6      6.5      0        2.4         0

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies Project data bank.

The percentage of individuals who hold a university degree or better is very close to the same for female elite members, male elite members, and recent female deputies. The earlier group of female deputies shows a clearer tendency toward normals school education: only 24.4 percent hold a university degree or higher. This could indicate two developments. First, women's educational and career opportunities are expanding, and they are able to pursue professional degrees at a greater rate. Second, this may indicate that, as a group, female schoolteachers were more active politically and prominent enough in the local political scene to be considered for election to the Chamber of Deputies.

Female director generals constitute the most educated group: 98.1 percent hold a bachillerato degree or higher. Further, the sub-group of 12 executive branch elite members who have never held elective positions has the highest rate of all: all hold a university degree or higher.(17)

The level of education of female elite members has increased with each generation. Only about 73 percent of women in the 1920-29 and 1930-39 generations held a university degree or better, rising to 80 percent of the 1940-49 generation, and 91.3 percent of the 1950-59 generation (Table 4-3).

Table 4-3: Highest Level of Education of Male and Female Political Elites by Generation (%)

       1900-1909 1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959
Level   M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F
(1)    57.0 50.0  53.6 50.0 53.6 40.0 50.4 47.0 37.8 32.0 46.0 58.0
(2)     4.7  5.5  13.6 13.4 24.8 15.8 34.8 36.0 26.8 33.3 
(3)    12.3 14.5  25.0 14.7 19.0 16.4 10.5 21.5 12.0 19.5

Total: 74.0 50.0 73.6 75.0 81.9 72.4 91.6 73.3 94.1 80.0 92.3 91.3

KEY: 1=University level 2=Post Professional, MA 3=PhD,LlD, MD

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies project data bank.

The female elite members in the younger generations are attaining levels of education that are nearly comparable to those of their male counterparts. Only the two younger generations among the single term deputies, show levels of education comparable to the elite members: only 71 of the 1940-49 generation hold university degree or higher, compared to 83 percent of those born during 1950-59 and 85 percent of those born during 1960-69.

Area of Study

Female elites are pursuing degrees in areas traditionally dominated by men. For example, law is the field of study of 40 percent and economics of 11.5 percent of the women in the sample with professional degrees who held posts at the beginning of Salinas' administration. Law and economics maintain this prominence among degrees held by the most women politicians and administrators overall (Table 4-4). The rest of the degrees are scattered in fields such as business, architecture, public administration, sociology, political science, biology and history to name a few.

Table 4-4: Types of University Degrees

          Female Male   Female Single
          Elites Elites Federal Deputies
                        (1954-79)  (1982-91)
No Degree   21.8   26.2    75.5       27.4
Law         28.2   37.3    12.2       21.8
Economics   14.1    6.7     4.1        5.6  
Medicine     2.6    6.5     --         2.4
Architecture 1.3     .8     --         1.6
Engineering  1.3    7.8     --          .8
Agriculture  --     2.7     --          --
CPA          1.3    2.2     --         6.5
Education               --     --      1.6
Other  29.4  9.9 8.1 32.1

Breakdown of Other for female politicians:
Social Sci   6.4    --      6.1        12.9
Poli Sci     3.8    --      --          2.4
Public Admin 7.7    --      --          5.6
Humanities   3.8    --      2.0         5.6
Natural Sci  2.6    --      --          2.4
Other        5.1                --      3.2

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies project data bank.

Women entering positions in Mexican government are not only increasing their educational level, but are obtaining in greater numbers degrees in fields that would seem more congruent with pursuit of a government career, such as law, political science, public administration, international relations and social science.

A comparison of male and female politicians shows little difference in the type of degree they hold, although the percentages are vastly different in some cases. Law degrees predominate for all groups but a much higher percentage of men than women hold that degree.(18) The second most common degree is economics, but twice as many women studied in that field as men. The male elites appear to have their interests a little more narrowly contained within half a dozen other fields and a small percent of "other" fields of study. However, female politicians have a much more broadly scattered range of interests, and more of them studied social sciences and humanities than their male colleagues.

The differences in degree types between the men and women may be both a function of gender and of the universities attended. The categories included in the original code book for degrees are concentrated in traditionally "masculine" fields of study, especially engineering, medicine, and agriculture: areas which still have low female representation in many countries.

Table 4-5:Institution attended for highest level of education.

Female Elite Members (N=61)
UNAM 49%
University of Puebla 6.5%
European Universities 6.5%
U.S. Universities 6.5%
University of Guadalajara 4.9%
Ibero American 4.9%
ITAM 2.6%
University of Nuevo Leon 2.6%
Colegio de Mexico 2.6%
All others 14.7%

Male Elite Members (N=1327)
UNAM 58%
National Military College 6.4%
National School of Agriculture 3.2%
National Polytechnic Institute 3.0%
University of Guadalajara 2.8%
Escuela Libre de Derecho 2.5%
Naval College 1.9%
San Nicolas de Hidalgo, Morelia 1.8%
U.S. Universities 1.5%
All others 16.2% Single Term Female Deputies (N=95)
UNAM 30.5%
European Universities 4.2%
University of Nuevo Leon 3.2%
San Nicolas de Hidalgo, Morelia 3.2%
University of Guadalajara 3.2%
University of Puebla 3.2%
Higher Normal School 3.2%
All others 49.3%

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Poltical Biographies Project data bank.

University Attended

Where an individual studies can be more important than the course of study. Previous studies have shown that the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has provided the majority of Mexico's political leaders.(19)

Camp also found that the female elites who had professional degrees were limited to about five universities, although it appeared that UNAM was as important in their recruitment as it was for the men. For female politicians, UNAM continues to play an important role-- all the female Supreme Court justices received their law degrees there, and the majority of female elites in the executive branch also attended UNAM. However, only about 20 percent of the women in the legislative branch overall attended UNAM.

More women have attended universities in Europe and the U.S. while the only men have attended the Heroic Military College and the Naval College, neither of which admit women (Table 4-5). While UNAM plays a dominant role, there is still a somewhat fair distribution among a handful of other universities. This is important since UNAM has served as one of the most important recruitment channels for Mexican politicians for many generations.

The lower level of UNAM graduates among female politicians is significant: it may explain the low number of female politicians at the elite level and it may also point to other channels of recruitment that are more important for women, such as local government and party office-holding. If these figures remain low, it may affect the importance of UNAM as a channel of recruitment for female political talent.

Distribution of Educators in Government Office

Despite the growing rift between the worlds of academia and politics, a surprising number of politicians have also taught at universities. Prior to the 1968 massacre of student protestors at Tlatelolco, it was quite common for politicians and prominent intellectuals to be one in the same person. Many university professors in Mexico only teach part-time and hold other jobs as it is impossible to make a living as an intellectual.

The participation of public officials as professors is not so surprising if one considers the extent to which universities are used as a social mechanism of the recruitment process. Teaching at a university provides many advantages to politicians.

As teachers or professors, would-be politicians could develop their senses of leadership, cultivate their skills in interpersonal relations, and --perhaps the most important-- begin to build up followings. Camarillas were frequently formed in schools and universities, and teaching positions have thus offered valuable political resources to ambitious Mexicans.(20)

A politician who is taking a break from the legislature for a term by teaching also has the opportunity to scout fresh political talent. Professors are able to transmit to the students a set of values that will help reduce gaps between generations and help preserve continuity and stability.

The female elites have, as a group, a higher proportion of university professors (53.8 percent). However, almost exactly the same percentage of male as female politicians have taught at UNAM and/or some other school (Table 4-6). The early group of single term female deputies has the lowest rate of all the groups: 77.6 percent never taught at the university or preparatory level. This is likely due to the fact that this group of deputies also has the highest proportion of normal school graduates and the lowest proportion of university degree holders. The women who have held the post of Director General during the past two administrations have the highest rate of teaching overall, and 30.2 percent have taught at UNAM and/or some other school.

The rates of teaching among female politicians are important. Teaching experience of women who have held elite positions is on par with their male colleagues. Without further available research on women's participation in camarillas and the type and extent of networks formed by women, it is difficult to assess the significance of this fact. While one should not expect women to select female protegés, the low number of women in elite posts might indicate that female politician-professors' selections of male vs. female protegés is counteracted by other factors. Factors might include differential influence of the female politicians as compared to their male peers and discrimination against women within the political structure despite playing camarilla politics. Another possibility might be that these women select male protegés because they feel that the men would have a greater chance of attaining success (ie, decision-making positions) that would later help their own career.

Another reason that universities are important is that politicians often begin their careers as student leaders at the university. The percentage of women who reported holding student leadership roles is very low, however. Only 5 percent of female elites and 3.5 percent of single-term deputies said they had been student leaders.

Party Affiliation

Although party affiliation is an area that Camp did not cover in his study of female political elites, it is important to take note of it since it is often an important mechanism for recruitment and promotion.

Information on party affiliation was available for most of the women included in this study, and many of these women have held party posts (Table 4-7). The majority of each group is made up of PRI members, with higher rates among male elites and single-term deputies prior to 1982. The female deputies elected since 198 show much more diversity in their party affiliations, with only 65.6 percent declaring membership in PRI, compared to about 90 percent for the other groups. However, this group shows a higher rate of conservative party membership.

Table 4-6: Rates of Teaching Among Mexican Politicians

Female Male Single-term Female Deputies Executive Branch
Elites Elites (1954-79) (1979-91) Directors General

Never taught  Prep or College 46.2 52.2 77.6 73.6  39.7
UNAM (and other) 20.5 21.6  4.1 5.6  30.2
Colegio de Mexico
and UNAM   1.3  1.4  2.0      1.6
ENP and UNAM    1.3    .8
Private and UNAM 3.8  2.3
Private only  6.4  2.3    .8 7.9
IPN   1.3  1.7   1.6
National Preparatory School    .8 
Other only  20.5 13.7 16.3 17.6 20.6
           (n=78) (n=1828) (n=49) (n=125) (n=63)
Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies project data bank.

Women in both the elite (95 percent) and the recent single term deputies group (88 percent) who declare PRI membership have high rates of participation in party offices. However, the rate for the early single term deputies is much lower (65 percent). All women in the elite or pre-1982 single term deputy groups (100 percent) who declared membership in all other parties had held decision-making postions in their party, but only 85 percent of single term deputies elected since 1982 had done so.

By contrast, only about 10 percent of the male elites who declared PRI affiliation reported holding party office at the national level, and only 25 percent of them did so at the regional or local level. The rates are also low (20 percent) for males who declared membership in left-wing opposition parties. By contrast, 80 percent of male elites who declared membership in right-wing parties reported having held party office.

This emphasizes the underlying importance of participation in party positions for female politicians.

Additionally, of all the women who declared party affiliation, most of them also declared participation in party offices of some type or another. Participation in party politics appears to be a more important recruitment channel for female politicians, and in fact, may act to further narrow the pool from which future female politicians are drawn. The percentage of men who lack party office-holding experience is much higher than that for women. Does this signal that women are held to higher criteria than their male counterparts, such as more political experience? If so, then women may hold higher rates of local level elective office-holding experience, and perhaps higher rates of experience in other types of organizations.

Table 4-7: Party Affiliation
Female Male Female Single Term Deputies
Elite Elite pre-1982 1982-91
            Members Members
PRI  88.3% 91.3% 91.8% 65.6%
Right Wing  5.2  5.7   2.0 20.6
Left Wing  6.5  3.0   6.1 13.7

Key:  Right wing: PAN, PDM
Left wing: PRT, PSUM, PST, PRD,
Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies project data bank.

Local Level and Organizational Office-Holding

Participation in elected positions at the local level, while not a prerequisite for office, may be more important for female elite office-holders than male elites (Table 4-8). It is interesting to note that these local level elective offices do not even figure into the profile of the female Supreme Court members (n=7) or for the group of non-legislative elites (n=12) who do not report holding either the position of local deputy or mayor.

Of the 22 women who have held the 28 elite positions in the executive branch, 12 of them have never held an elective office, nor have they been appointed to Supreme Court. Of the remaining ten, seven are Supreme Court justices, five of whom never held elective offices.

The position of local deputy was held by more female elites (15.2 percent) than male elites (10.3 percent) but the numbers can be misleading in that respect. As mentioned above, these positions are more important to those pursuing legislative careers. Slightly more female senators (20.7 percent) and female elite deputies (19.7 percent) held local deputyships, compared to the male senators and deputies (18.3 percent and 17.4 percent). The recent group of single-term female deputies holds the highest rates of local deputyship, at 21.2 percent, compared to all other groups, including the pre-1982 group of female deputies (14.3 percent).

These numbers would seem to indicate a general trend among younger female legislators to seek the position of local deputy before running for national office. This is supported by the fact that eight of the twelve female elites who reported holding the position of local deputy were born in or after 1940.

Another possible explanation is that more women are entering local politics and may not have considered running for federal deputy until after holding the position of local deputy. Alternates are elected along with the federal deputies, and it would be interesting to update the tables to examine women who have held that position as well to determine how many went on to hold a regular deputyship or other position(s) in the federal government.

The number of individuals who reported having been elected as mayor or municipal president is rather low for all groups (Table 4-8). However, a higher percentage of those who have held positions in the legislature have also held local political office. In contrast, none of the five women who have served on the Supreme Court have listed experience as a local deputy, mayor or municipal president.

While male senators and deputies are equally likely to have been mayor or municipal president (11.4 percent), 13.8 percent of female senators had previously been elected mayor compared to only 7.9 percent of the female elites who had held the position of federal deputy. Only 7.2 percent of all of the recent single-term female deputies reported holding the position of mayor, although the early group of single term female deputies had a slightly higher rate overall.

Table 4-8: Local Political Activity and Union Activity of Mexican Politicians
Local Deputies Mayors

10.3% of male elites 7.0% of male elites

18.3% senators 11.4% senators

17.4% deputies 11.4% of deputies

15.2% of all female elites 6.3% of all female elites

20.7% senators 13.8% senators

19.7% deputies 7.9% deputies

Female Single Term Deputies Female Single Term Deputies

14.3% of (1954-79) 8.2% of (1954-79)

21.2% of (1982-91) 6.8% of (1982-91)

Union Leadership Feminine or Feminist Organizations

13.1% of male elites 46.0% of reported having held

19.8% senators leadership positions

21.9% deputies 51.9% of elites

13.9% of female elites 58.9% of single term deputies (1954-79)

10.7% of senators 56.8% of single term deputies (1982-91)

7.9% of deputies 3.7% of all reported membership

Female Single Term Deputies in women's organizations

11.8% of (1954-79)

2.3% of (1982-91)

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies project data bank.

A thorough statistical study of women in local politics would reveal the rate of participation in the positions of mayor, municipal president or local deputy, because without that information it is difficult to assess the importance of these offices on the careers of female politicians in the national arena.

Rates similar to participation in local politics are found in the rates of leadership in union organizations. That is to say, low rates. In this case, male elite legislators hold much higher rates than any of the groups of female elites and recent group of single term female deputies, though the early group of single term deputies holds the highest rate among the women (11.8 percent).

The female senators are second, with 10.7 percent listing union leadership positions, while only 2.3 percent of the post-1982 female deputies listed union leadership positions. This latter figure is difficult to assess-- it could be due to faulty reporting, or it might actually represent a drop in importance of union leadership positions for women who aspire to national political office. It may also reflect the declining significance of unions in general during the past fifteen years.

Participation in feminist or women's organizations is a one way to show the political commitment to women's interests and concerns. One-half of all of the women included in this study reported such activity, and one-quarter reported having held a leadership position of an organization dedicated to women.

The organizations were very broad and included regional or local leaders of party organizations such as ANFER or the National Council for the Integration of women of the PRI, professional organizations (such as women reporters or professors), or independent feminist organizations. Interestingly, only a minority (3.7 percent) reported membership only in such organizations (Table 4-8).

DeSilva contends that the female political elites are not likely to be "feminists or to be in any manner interested in changing traditional gender roles."(21) However, it is obvious that at least half of these women included in this study are interested in the problems and concerns of women as a group. The women interviewed for this paper all discussed with the concern and understanding of the plight of women across different socio-economic groups and the need to increase women's participation at all levels of politics.

Parties, Recruitment and Quotas

While the importance of participation in party office for female politicians has been noted above, parties are also important because they can influence the rate at which women enter politics by the number of women they nominate for positions in the Senate and Chamber. Because of such control, candidates cannot enter a political race without the endorsement of a recognized political party, as they might in the United States.

Female politicians are not blind to this situation. Toward the end of Salinas' administration one of the hot topics of debate was whether to impose a minimum quota of female nominations for each political party. Interestingly, most of the primarily PRI women I interviewed in 1994 supported quotas. They echoed Laura Alicia Garza Galindo's on the subject:

We haven't established quotas, but I think it would be very beneficial to do so. Before I began participating in politics, I thought that quotas were weak, and that it was better for women to win space through our participation in every part of national public life. But now, I think differently. We are in politics to open space for new generations, and we should establish a quota system for the participation of women because, after all, the quota for men is 90 percent.(22)

This subject was also discussed at the National Meeting of Female Legislators in October 1992, where it received support from women of many parties, including the prominent feminist politician Amalia Garcia Medina (PRD member):

I am for quotas because I know that the relationship between unequals only permits inequality if clear norms aren't established to guarantee equal treatment.(23)

In any discussion of quota systems, the high levels of female office-holders in the Scandinavian countries is almost invariably mentioned as a success story.

The fact that gender quotas are increasingly accepted is no doubt a reflection of this: with women distributed (however unevenly) across the range of occupations and professions, they can be incorporated into our representative assemblies without disturbing the conventions of competence and leadership, and without disrupting the dominance of class.(24)

It must be noted that the Scandinavian countries are relatively homogeneous culturally, politically stable, and have relatively small populations. In contrast, Mexico is a country with nearly 90 million inhabitants of Indian, European, African and Asian ancestry, with a high level of poverty, and a great deal of political turmoil.

However, Rule noted that party list/proportional representation systems with large geographic district dimensions may help increase women's opportunity for election to parliament.(25) In Mexico, there is a provision for limited proportional representation, or "party list deputies" in the Chamber of Deputies. This means that a district is represented by a certain number of deputies per x number of constituents. This was initiated in the administration of López Mateos. The number of PR/party list deputies in the Chamber has increased from 100 to 200 since then.(26) Under this type of system, the parties could in fact increase the number of women who enter congress, without changing the political system, simply by increasing the number of women they include on the party list to 50 percent.

However, as has often been the case in Mexico, women's issues take a back seat to other issues of national and international concern. It appears that this debate was interrupted early in 1994 by several events of major importance, including the armed insurrection in Chiapas, followed by the assassination of PRI candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, the questions surrounding the investigation of his death, and many other events leading up to the elections in August 1994. Considering the turmoil that has continued through the Zedillo administration so far-- the fall of the peso, continued insurgence in Chiapas, assassinations and political intrigue-- it appears unlikely that the subject will receive more than academic attention in the next year.

Trends Toward Homogeneity: Office-Holders in the Executive Branch and Judiciary

As we saw above, female politicians overall exhibit some important differences from their male colleagues. However, there is a smaller sub-population of female politicians that exhibit many of the same background, credential and career characteristics of their male peers. During Salinas' administration there was a increase in the number of women appointed to elite positions who had not held previous elective office. They tended to have high education and low levels of political activity. The characteristics of women will be examined in this section. They appear to be part of the trend of technocratization which will be examined in detail in the following chapter.(27)

Only twenty-two women have held the positions of Secretary, Subsecretary and Oficial Mayor since women first entered Mexican politics over forty years ago. Within this group, two subgroups can be identified: one (n=10) is made up of women who have held elected positions, and this subgroup overlaps with the legislative and judiciary elites. The other (n=12) is made up of women who have never held an elected position nor a judicial position.(28)

The age distribution among executive branch elite members on the whole is only a little different from the entire population of female elites. The executive branch elite members are only slightly younger, with the age groups 1940-49 and 1950-59 representing 36.4 percent and 18.2 percent respectively, compared to 31.6 percent and 16.5 percent in general. The smaller group of non-elected executive branch elite members is substantially younger: nearly 67 percent were born in the 1940-49 and 1950-59 age groups.

Table 4-9:  Backgrounds of Female Office-holders (%)


All Elite Executive Técnico Office- Branch Top *Director Sub- Holders Posts General group*
Born since 1939 48.1 54.6 100.0 66.7 Urban birthplace 92.0 90.9 100.0 91.7 Middle class parents 68.4 77.3 72.7 75.0 Level of Education BA degree or higher 78.0 100.0 98.5 100.0 MA degree 13.0 18.2 30.3 33.3 PhD or MD 11.7 18.1 22.7 16.6 Subject of Study Law 28.2 22.7 15.2 8.3 Economics 14.1 31.8 21.2 41.7 Attended UNAM 49.0 63.6 27.7 75.0 Graduate Study in: United States 6.9 9.1 18.2 0.0 Europe 15.2 22.7 19.7 25.0 Both 3.8 13.6 1.5 25.0 Taught at UNAM 25.6 50.0 31.8 50.0 PRI member 88.3 95.5 100.0 100.0 (n=79) (n=22) (n=66) (n=12) This sub-group includes all women who held these positions at least once: Senator, Oficial Mayor, Subsecretary, Secretary, Supreme Court Justice, or the position of Deputy (twice). This sub-group includes only those women who held elite-level positions in the executive branch, including: Oficial Mayor, Subsecretary, and Secretary. * As discussed in Chapter 1, only women born since 1939 who held the office of Director General were included in this version of the database.
** The sub-group includes only women who held elite-level executive branch posts who did not previously hold elective or judicial positions.
Source: Database of Mexican female political elites compiled by Jennifer R. Accettola, Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, New Orleans LA, 1994.

Nearly half of the female elites in the entire sample are "new" elite members, that is to say that they had not previously held an elite-level position. That figure is lower for the executive branch office-holders: only 31 percent of the entire group obtained their first high position during the Salinas (1988-94) administration. However, for the executive elite sub-group discussed above, this rate is nearly 60 percent.

The female office-holders in the elite branch also have lower rates of political experience. Nearly 85 percent of the all women who have held elite-level positions have held elective office, compared to only 45 percent of those who have held executive branch elite-level positions.

It is also interesting to note that women who have held positions in the executive branch are better educated than female elite-level office-holders in general. In fact, nearly all women who held executive branch positions have university degrees, and they are more likely to hold graduate degrees as well (Table 4-9).(29) Executive branch office-holders are also more likely to have attended UNAM than all of the female elite members as a group, and the sub-group has an even higher rate.

Among women who have held executive branch positions, the percentage of economists rises and lawyers declines dramatically in comparison with all female elite-level office-holders. Although, both Camp and Centeno have shown that the mostly male technocrats attend U.S. universities, it appears that the trend among women who have held elite-level office (and those who have held the position of director general) is to attend European universities for graduate studies.

Women who held executive branch positions also teach more frequently (half) at the National University (UNAM) than female political elite members overall (one-quarter). While executive branch office-holders have a high membership in PRI, all of the executive branch sub-groups have lower rates of participation in party offices than female elite members as a group. Two-thirds executive branch women leaders have some type of party office at the regional level, compared to about 42 percent for both the técnico sub-group and those who held the director general position. Women who have held elite positions in the executive branch exhibit many of the same characteristics of male political-technocrats, including a lack of party experience, lack of elective office experience, and specialized education abroad (see discussion below in Chapter 5).

Supreme Court Justices

While characteristics of women who have held elective and bureaucratic positions have been discussed extensively in this study, women in the judiciary have not been as thoroughly examined for two major reasons. First, the number of women in top-level positions in the Judiciary, the Supreme Court, is very small. Second, the judiciary plays a minor role in national political decisions. I have examined briefly the characteristics of women in this branch to determine to what extent their career paths overlap laterally with the other branches of the government.

The seven women who have been appointed to the Mexican Supreme Court appear to be as alike as seven peas in a pod. None of these women served as local deputies or mayors, and only two held elective office. As mentioned above, only one member, Martha Chávez Padrón, also has held elite posts in other branches of government including Subsecretary in the Secretariat of Agrarian Reform, Senator and Deputy for one term each before her appointment to Supreme Court. The other justice to hold an elected position was Irma Cué Sarquis, a deputy (1982-85) before her appointment in 1988.

Their geographic origins, given their small number, are surprisingly spread out, and it is interesting to note that none of them was born in the West Central region, where the largest percentage (23 percent) of male Supreme Court members were born. All of the female justices are from urban areas, compared to 71 percent of the male justices.

Education is the variable where their homogeneity is most evident: all of them graduated with a law degree from UNAM. A law degree is a prerequisite for a post on the Supreme Court. However, two went on to pursue doctorates, including Chávez Padrón pursued a post-doctorate in rural sociology. All of the male Supreme Court justices hold degrees in law, while only two-thirds graduated from UNAM.

Teaching at UNAM is also an important trait of female justices, all but two of them taught at the university or preparatory level, and four of them at UNAM (or UNAM and another school). Among the male justices, two-thirds taught at the university or preparatory level, and 45 percent had UNAM (or UNAM and another school).

Six of the female Supreme Court justices listed membership in the PRI, and only one woman did not report a party affiliation at all in the Diccionario biográfico. Only Cué Sarquís listed any party posts, having served as the Secretary General of the CEN of PRI from 1984 to 1987.

As previously mentioned, only 2 of 7 female justices have career experience in other branches of government. The majority of the female Supreme Court justices come from within the judiciary. While none held positions on State Supreme Courts, three served as local judges, three on the Superior Tribunal of the Federal District, and three as Agents of the Ministerio Publico.

Only Chávez Padrón is an exception in terms of her career path, which is very different from the other justices. Because that the Supreme Court has not always been a prestigious institution in Mexico, and not very powerful in terms of setting legal precedents as does the U.S. Supreme Court, these female elites have little influence in high level decision-making processes.


Are the careers and socioeconomic backgrounds of female politicians becoming increasingly like those of their male counterparts? My preliminary findings and the results of other studies show that the majority of female politicians do tend to come from urban areas and middle and upper class backgrounds, as do the male politicians. Mexican women in general are pursuing higher education in greater numbers than they were in the past. This is reflected in the changes in the educational level of female political elites, who are very similar to their male colleagues in this area.

Women are also pursuing traditionally masculine fields such as law in higher numbers, a field which is typically considered a spring-board to a political career. However, female politicians still show a little more variety in the universities where they received their education although UNAM still plays an important role for both male and female politicians.

Finally, female politicians show much higher rates of party office-holding than their male colleagues, although participation in local level politics is nearly equal for both men and women. Interestingly, the younger female politicians exhibit much higher levels of education, local level political office-holding and party office-holding.

The resumés of male and female politicians may appear increasingly alike. This does not mean that female politicians legislate, operate and negotiate in the same ways as their male colleagues. This is an area that should be investigated further. Women still have a long way to go to reach parity in representation in leadership positions in politics and business in Mexico.

There has been an increasing homogeneity in the credentials and social backgrounds of Mexico's politicians during the past fifteen years or so. As we saw above, female politicians in the executive branch tend resemble their male colleagues to a much greater extent than female politicians in the legislative branch. What are the implications of this phenomena for female politicians in Mexico? Are they adopting more successful strategies and emulating their male colleagues or is the rise of the technocratic state recruiting more women? The following chapter will examine the effects of the rise technocracy on the careers of female politicians and present some conclusions trends and patterns found in their backgrounds, credentials and careers.


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