HomeLearning CenterHow Mexico, Bastion of Machismo, Got a Female President Before the U.S.

How Mexico, Bastion of Machismo, Got a Female President Before the U.S.

Originally published by Mary Beth Sheridan and Lorena Rios for The Washington Post

Mexico is famous for its macho culture. Women here didn’t win the right to vote for president until 1953 — three decades after their U.S. counterparts. As recently as nine years ago, there wasn’t a single female state governor.

Yet Mexico has just elected its first female presidentClaudia Sheinbaum, in what was essentially a race between two women engineers. With 88 percent of the ballots counted Monday, Sheinbaum had 59 percent of the vote; Xóchitl Gálvez, her closest rival, had 28 percent.

As the United States gears up for another two-man contest for the presidency — Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump — Mexico is eclipsing its northern neighbor on gender parity in government.

Today, women hold half the seats in Mexico’s legislature — roughly double the percentage in the U.S. Congress. Women lead Mexico’s Supreme Court and central bank. While the United States has a record 12 female governors, Mexico will soon have 13, including four who won election Sunday.

Female politicians and activists lobbied for years to force parties to set quotas for female candidates. As in other parts of Latin America, when a wave of authoritarian governments crumbled in the 1980s and 1990s, activists sold the idea that real democracy meant equal participation for women.

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