Tuesday, June 15, 2021
On June 6, 2021, Mexico implemented its constitutional mandate for “gender parity in everything” for the first time. All eyes were on the 15 governors’ seats up for grabs, with Mexico becoming the first country in the world to require that parties nominate women for governors’ races.
Women ultimately won five states: Baja California, Chihuahua, Colima, Guerrero and Tlaxcala. Votes are still being counted in Campeche, but the woman candidate has the edge, and her victory would mean Mexico elected six women governors—over one-third of the races in contention and more than ever elected at once in the United States.
True, women’s victories are concentrated in the states outside Mexico’s power centers, because that’s where parties mostly sent women candidates. Nonetheless, women will play leading roles in Mexico’s future.***
The idea of gender quotas for women candidates goes back nearly 50 years, to the United Nations’ First World Conference on Women, coincidentally held in Mexico City in 1975. At the time, the U.N. recommendations merely emphasized the importance of women’s political inclusion, but women activists and elected officials knew party leaders would need requirements, not pretty words. So in Latin America and elsewhere, women began pushing party leaders to set targets for nominating women.
In 1991, Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the world to adopt a 30 percent gender quota law for women candidates. Mexico followed, with a 1996 law recommending that parties nominate 30 percent women for the federal Congress, and a 2002 law requiring them to do so. Key to this shift was Mexico’s democratization.