Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


The existing literature on women in politics has made it abundantly clear that women around the world are facing structural, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers to power in both the public and private spheres. Yet, despite these common obstacles women in some countries fare better than others. Within Latin America, an otherwise fairly homogenous region, there exists a large variation in the percent women’s representation in the national single or lower houses, from 6.7% (Belize) to 38.6% (Costa Rica). Possible hypotheses for this spread will be tested using data from the Latinobarómetro Survey, UNESCO, the Quota Project, and the Inter-parliamentary Union. Isolating the main causal factors for low female political representation will provide a framework for the next steps of the women’s movement for gender equality in Latin America. In the years since the implementation of quotas (either legislative or at the party level) in 16 of the 19 cases presented here, women’s representation has risen significantly in these nationstates. In accordance with the literature, all of the most successful country cases utilize a proportional representation list system. This study finds that the institutions and the dedication of the government in power to reinforce these institutions are the most significant factors in increasing the representation of women in the national parliaments of Latin America.