The Status of Women in Elective Positions in Chile And Argentina


Having women in elective positions of power is an attribute that is yet to gain the kind of attention it deserves in various democracies across the world. The Americans have been trying to make this work by establishing various considerations important for developing such ventures, eliciting different concerns from multiple parts of the world. After the feminist waves of the 1980s and the changes that occurred later on, it was clear that something had to change across the globe. Women in the last 40 years have been quite vocal in their fight for recognition within the political realm, an attribute that has provided them with different political symbolisms. It is evident in how the number of elected women has increased in other countries and the roles given to them. Various similarities and differences may be noted in Chile and Argentina, especially when discussing women’s elective roles since the feminist wave began. Therefore, understanding the role of the political process concerning the election of women in powerful positions in both Argentina and Chile in the last four decades will be a good way of learning the level of democratic maturity attained therein.

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Feminism and Fight for Women’s Rights

The feminist movement started with European immigration to Latin America at the end of the 19th century. The immigration brought new thinking into Latin America, profoundly influencing the region’s women of the time. Women in Latin America started to fight for their rights, especially in social and political issues. The growth of feminism gave females the impetus to support the growing democracy as a good platform for their ideals (Lavrin 1997, 36). As opposed to the time when women understood their place as a domestic matter based on the social structures that assigned gender roles, a time had come when women engaged in fighting for their rights, including their representation in government.

The emergence of the feminist movement, especially in the 1960s, came at a time when there was a wave of women’s rights emancipation from men’s oppression and other feminist efforts to change the situation of women in American society, including Latin America. Thus, it is evident that since then, the movement has had a critical role to play in challenging the dominant view of women in societies as being dominated by men. Because of the effects of the movement, the discrimination and oppression that women were subjected to were highlighted and greatly challenged. The efforts played an important role in shaping the view of what was happening at the time. The feminist idea provided the basis for how individuals could forge their identities as women in a male-dominated environment (Lavrin 1997, 37). It provided the basis for a personal sense of selfhood, the idea of what it means to be male or female, personal sense of class, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality. Because of the effects of the movement, women started to feel as though they belonged to their societies.

The feminist movement provided women with an important tool to claim a place within their communities. It had a huge part to play in educating women in society regarding their rights, which were, in turn, an important way for them to escape discrimination and oppression subjected against females by the males who had the power over them in society. Various feminists, such as Gloria Jean Watkins, used the media to promote the rights,, in which most women in America and outside, including Latin America, received the message of the need to struggle for their rights since the men would not readily give them. The feminist tone was greatly cherished and, in the process, challenged the retrogressive cultural practices that denied women a chance to equally develop with their male counterparts (Lavrin 1997, 41). The problems of patriarchy, sexuality in relation to feminist politics, masculinity, and race were highlighted within the ideals of the feminist movement, making the women aware of what was at stake if they did not struggle to achieve their rights.

Women organized movements to fight against dictatorships and crimes related to such methods of leadership (Bonner 2010, 140). Since authoritarianism abused the poor for a long time, not just women, every level of people wanted to overturn dictatorial rules to achieve greater representation. In the process, they engaged others in fighting for their rights. Women from all occupations were involved in the fight since all desired a better life for themselves and other women in the future generations. Many groups came out in solidarity towards this end. The first batch of women to participate in the efforts as those who worked in social work, in hostile environments, were paid low wages and had longer working hours compared to men in the same profession. During the first wave of feminism, they wanted to get the same benefits as men and to be able to lead their societies just as men had done.

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In fact, women no longer feared dictatorships as they wanted equal representation, and their stand was firm enough to grant them such transformation. The changes promoted through the feminist movement were heavily experienced in Latin America. There are many famous women’s organization startups in both countries, Argentina and Chile. The two countries are among those in the region where the efforts had a positive impact (Bonner 2010, 141). Since the 1960s, feminists and other gender activists have used feminist ideas to teach women how to be strong within the male-dominated society. Such ideas reached women in all societies, including Chile and Argentina, where traditionally, women could not rule over men. In the past, men had perpetrated the dictatorial rule of the countries and over the societies where the majority of the underclass included women. Such were the ideals that were challenged by the teachings of the feminists.

The women exchanged their views on feminist struggles and encouraged each other to strengthen their call for continued unity amongst feminist groups in the region (Bonner 2010, 142). In fact, they had made the decision to stand in solidarity with their own in all parts of the world. For instance, the feminists in the United States would stand in solidarity with their counterparts in Latin America to be able to achieve lasting changes regarding the status of woman in society. The feminists were committed to showing women the value of being females by demonstrating to them how to take part in political positions, including being political leaders. It was important at the time due to the need to teach individuals how to react to different genders and social groups, some of which had traditionally curtailed their efforts to advance to important positions in their societies and workplaces. It was time to change the idea of society being dominated by males. Thus, women in leadership roles played a positive role in changing the perception of society towards females.

Prioritization of human rights based on policies from the U.S. gave Latin American women the impetus to build their goals around such associations. The United States had achieved a lot of success, especially following the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly as far as the rights of minority women were concerned. Based on the great outcomes of the feminist movements in the United States, women in many other countries, such as Argentina and Chile, fought for their rights with more confidence, for they were sure that they would also achieve success.

The second wave of feminism in Chile was constructed through the social conflict between socialism and feminism. The success of the feminist movements helped champion the emancipation of women in the United States and later in Latin America, including Chile and Argentina. By attacking the cultural practices that orchestrated women’s discrimination and oppression, the movement played an important role in weakening these practices in the two countries (Bonner 2010, 143). The traditional gendering of roles was attacked and criticized heavily as a hurdle to allowing women to seek formal employment, political posts, and education. As such, the efforts helped in demystifying the two countries.

Discrimination in gender terms in public affairs denied women a chance to serve in public positions they qualified to perform in. Their disadvantage was not their academic qualification or experience but their gender. The feminists campaigned for ending sexism in society; popular writers, such as Gloria Jean Watkins, took much of their time attacking sexual discrimination that manifested heavily in both the private and public sectors in America, the ideals that took root in the entire region. The continued attack on the discriminatory practices directed at women in society helped in creating awareness of the plight of women in society (Bonner 2010, 143). Sexism in the politics of the two countries has been exposed and condemned by various feminists in their works, opening an avenue for constructive restructuring of the two societies to accommodate more women in political appointments and elective posts. The feminists used different tools, including the media, to expose the negative effects of sexism and to press for the eradication of sexism in the public and private sectors. In fact, the efforts played an important role in improving women’s place in Chile and Argentina.

Growing pressure in the U.S. strengthened local chapters of women’s political activities (Bonner 2010, 144). Feminism in the United States got a great response, while other countries used it as a reference to fighting for their rights. In addition, feminists in the United States were putting pressure on those other countries to join in the efforts to fight for the rights of women within male-dominated societies. Learning from what was happening in the United States, local feminist groups such as the Club de Senoras of Santiago and the Consejo Nacional de Mujeres in Chile, and the Socialist Party in Buenos Aires, Argentina, rose to challenge the plight of women in their societies. The movements were created in the two countries borrowing from the ideas of the feminist movement in the United States that were formed to challenge the discrimination against women and achieve their emancipation. The efforts popularized these concepts as they gained a wide understanding of societies.

Feminism and Democracy

Dictatorships were falling, and women were vocal in their participation in the democratization process. Before the onset of the feminist movements, many countries were under authoritarian rules in one form or another. In such societies, the voices of women were rarely heard, and they could never be engaged in political leadership efforts. Thus, feminism in the wake of the breakdown of the dictatorship had a favorable environment to flourish and achieve major success for women (Krause 2004, 367). The repression by Augusto Pinochet in Chile redefined women’s responsibility in fighting for civil liberties. The dictatorship ended when the government acknowledged that it had failed in a referendum. The failure of the dictatorship opened the room for the establishment of democracy in the country. In a democratic environment, it would be possible for women to be included in the government. Finally, the achievement of democracy meant that the feminist movement had succeeded in Chile.

Before democracy, Argentina had also been under dictatorial rule. Between 1974 and 1983, Argentina was in a state of crisis where women could not have a democratic space to advance their rights. However, the efforts of the feminist movements and other groups brought the issue to an end. Argentinean feminism politics began at the grassroots to develop changes across the system and boost efforts amongst the various groups (Bonner 2010, 146). Therefore, people had to understand clearly what these concepts were and what they stood for to achieve lasting changes in the country. There were efforts that challenged dominant narratives about gender and sexuality and oppression in society, hence, gaining major success toward democracy. As a result, there is an increase in the appreciation of the place of women (including black women) in society due to the increase in the kinds of efforts that were advanced by the feminist movements in Argentina.

 Victory for Women Against Male Supremacy

For women to get a place in the leadership or presentation with the government, they had to fight against the prevailing rule. Male supremacy in numerous Latin American nations has been a matter of great apprehension as they continue to limit women in political agencies. In most societies, men dominated leadership positions,, inhibiting women’s efforts to achieve or maintain such positions of power. There was also an increase in the platforms where the achievements and accomplishments of women could be curtailed within the traditional society. The authors have continued to document an increase in the number of positive female roles in society, most of which could not be enjoyed in the past based on male domination and which changed with time due to feminist campaigns (Krause 2004, 368). It is suggested that this is a reflection of the cultural and social elements, which females have experienced in the past.

Women have had to fight for such political positions in both countries, making it worthwhile when women presidents are elected (Bonner 2010, 89). Getting to the place and position of women today. Hence, it is worth celebrating women’s success within these two countries. One indicator of the success of the feminist movements in Chile and Argentina has been the reality that the two have elected women as presidents. Other indicators are the current belief and the promotion of democracy in the two countries. Presently, every citizen, whether a man or woman, in their country has right to vote for their president. In fact, a female president would be considered more in an environment where women’s rights prevailed. The election of a female president is the best result to demonstrate that feminism succeeds. The reality indicates a change in mindset within these societies and the agreement that even women can lead just as well as men.

 Women in the Political Space

Chile showed maturity and equity when it elected Michele Bachelet into power. In fact, the country demonstrated its progress in the area of democracy and advancing the place of women in society, especially in politics (Bauer 2015, 699). In the past, the environment would not have been conducive for a female president. Argentina also elected Cristina Fernandez into the presidency, making it another feat for Latin American countries toward real democracy (Fiedler and Blanco 2006, 280). These are not the only female leaders within the two countries since they successfully overcame dictatorship and propelled women to positions of power. Isabel Peron was not only the first female president in Argentina but also the first female president in the world. However, she had not been elected through a democratic election but replaced her husband’s presidency from 1972 to 1974. Regardless, the reality that she held such a powerful position was an indicator of success for women to govern their countries and hold other leadership positions.

The situation has been changing drastically for women in Argentina and Chile. For instance, Spanish law and the Catholic Church mostly followed women’s legal and social roles in Argentina. Under Spanish law, women took orders from their fathers first and then from their husbands. However, since President Carlos Menem signed the Argentine quota law in 1991, the legislation provided that one-third of the parliament must be women; thus, females have more opportunities to present their rights in Argentina today. Feminization of the country’s politics and economy has been achieved, which means that women are currently more likely to have inspirational attitudes, a positive outlook toward careers, education, and an independent income (Gray 2003, 55). There is evidence of a greater level of transgressive (that is, going past the gendered expectations) female roles in society.

The election of women does not mean a huge gain for the females as the two countries still lag behind regarding women’s representation. Patriarchal societies would remain the same regardless of the fact that major changes had been achieved in terms of the rights of women in the two countries. The argument presented is that rather than achieving the benefits they were developed to reach, the efforts have placed an even greater burden on women, especially those living in poverty. Some of the policies have yet to achieve considerable efforts in raising the standards of some women within the society, particularly those living in underprivileged conditions. There is very little evidence of the benefits of the political opportunities that are supposed to be provided by the reforms that have taken place in the country as affecting women (Gray 2003, 55). The reality is that within the elective positions, although huge gains have been made, there are still more men than women, and the former still hold positions of power.

Nonetheless, compared to the past, the situation has considerably changed, especially regarding the representation of women in positions of power. A female president can improve several women’s rights in both countries. Within Latin America, most countries, including Chile and Argentina, achieved women’s rights (Gray 2003, 53). Women in Chile and Argentina have historically been testaments to determination and strength. Even before the Feminist Movement emerged to fight for the rights of women, they skillfully juggled the various roles of wives, mothers, caregivers, and breadwinners while, at the same time, living through the barriers of class and gender. Regardless of facing these barriers, which went on to affect the women, they still pressed on and excelled in different areas of life (Gray 2003, 53). Politically, they have gained considerable achievements beginning with women becoming presidents, while many other countries, including the United States (a world democracy), have never had one.

Women have scaled the heights and changed the manner in which society viewed them in the two countries. Through these efforts, women have excelled in various areas of life, including politics. Along the way, females have been transformed, making their voices known in various social and political issues. However, it would be wrong for the women in these countries, especially Chile, to relax since there is much more to achieve. Despite having 52.4% of women as electorates, Chile only provides 15% of females in the lower house, though President Michelle elected a 50% women cabinet in her term (Krause 2004, 370). Argentina has at least 41.6% of women as representatives in the House of Deputies. Those in parliament are close to 38% (Hicks, Hicks, and Maldonado 2016, 50). The reality indicates the need for more changes to improve women’s position in the country. While the numbers could seem like a low deal for the women in the two countries, it is important to note that the changes are real. The efforts to have women get to the place they are today cannot be taken for granted, although, in reality, there is room for improvement.

Both countries have established quotas to help improve the number of women in active politics, with political parties being the main targets (Fiedler and Blanco 2006, 278). Evidently, strides have been made to increase the number of women involved in the politics of Chile and Argentina. The current policies will continue to improve the place of women within the political and social aspects of the countries. Comparative studies have revealed that important strides have been achieved in the two countries to increase the number of women in active politics. Evidently, concerted efforts such as electoral quotas have played a critical role in improving the representation of women in the two countries (Gray 2003, 55). Gender quotas have been shown as being favorable electoral systems in increasing the number of women in political roles. In the process, this has also promoted the voice on gender matters within public policy, making life better for all the women in society.

Electoral Reforms and the Status of Women Politicians

Transitioning to formal liberal democracy is an important consideration since it offers candidates an equal chance to gain better representation in legislative politics. In such a political space, both men and women have equal chances to be elected in a political process and to be equally represented in the legislative processes. Chile and Argentina have achieved success in terms of attaining equality for their women. As a result, the voice of women can be heard in different areas of society, including political and social matters. In the issues where women’s voices are still unheard, the changes have allowed room for the continued fight for their rights (Friedman and Hochstetler 2002, 21). Compared to the past, women’s rights in political affairs are increasingly being promoted and respected. From the time the two countries transitioned to democracy, many women have been engaged in the process of promoting the issues related to gender, which have been heard in all sectors of society. Thus, democracy has provided the grounds for women to promote issues like gender quotas, which have, in turn, improved the place of women in politics and social spheres.

Electoral reforms in these Latin American countries made it possible to develop better policies and choices for rulers according to what the people wanted (Friedman and Hochstetler 2002, 21). In democratic countries, individuals have more opportunities to speak out. People are given a chance to make their decisions in a free and fair environment. Therefore, where women have increased their chances to stand for electoral positions to compete with men, there is a chance for the people to make their decisions on whom to elect without following the authoritative dictates of society. After women increase their political strength, they had the same chance as men to stand for the elective position and still be voted since it is the decision of the electorates that count. Indeed, the changes have influenced the opportunity for women to engage in issues aimed at making the countries better, not only for those in politics but also for women in general within the two countries (Gray 2003, 55). The policies promoted by women, including gender quotas, have proven successful, although they depend on the democratic space of the country, something that Chile and Argentina are increasingly achieving.

Women have not only achieved gains in the political sphere but the same has been witnessed in other areas of their lives. Economically, women in Chile and Argentina have attained a lot since they currently work in better environments than before. In terms of salaries and wages, women no longer earn less than men, for they have achieved considerable equality. On the other hand, just like men, their female counterparts are working no more than eight hours. Certainly, this has further encouraged an increase in the number of unions that have managed to play a critical role in the contribution towards paradigmatic changes across the regimes and the dependence of democracy in Chile and Argentina (Cató, Ventrici and Bresnahan 2011, 39). The present literature paints the picture of a woman whose self-esteem and self-confidence are eventually making dividends in their professional areas. There is evidence that women in Chile and Argentina have positive experiences, especially compared to a few decades ago when they were under great oppression. In fact, women have become greatly successful in their careers and other areas of their lives. Indeed, by studying the current literature, it is possible to get inspired by the great achievements of woman in the two countries. As such, it is conceivable to find females in most careers and positions, which was not possible in the past.

Women in Chile and Argentina are succeeding as leaders in politics and all areas of life. Evidently, more women in the two countries are getting advanced degrees, reliable careers, becoming employed in high-profile jobs, getting high-level positions, and cautiously mapping their potential career trajectories. The drive among the women is symbolic of what has been taught (Friedman and Hochstetler 2002, 24). The behaviors that have always been drilled into our consciousness are indifferent, strong, focused, and independent. In fact, these are the ambitions which are taught to all women long before they pursue higher education or get a career. From this perspective, it has become evident that the women in the two countries have internalized these drives, evidenced in their successes in the present world, even in areas once thought to be impossible for women to venture into.

Regardless of the gains, cultural and social factors should still be addressed to advance the status of women in the two countries. Institutionalization has been a common attribute amongst both countries since the regimes in power provide such avenues beneficial to certain participants. In fact, this is common in Chile, where cultural demands still hinder women. Besides, voter buying in Argentina shows a need to deal with such institutions (Brusco, Nazareno, and Stokes 2004, 79). Such practices still make men become more powerful than women in a society where such injustices and unfair acts are institutionalized. The argument, in this case, is that the effects on the political and social conditions of the practice have been more negative than positive, regardless of the fact that they are apparently designed to improve the situations of the women in the two countries. The past efforts have been aimed at making the situation better for the women in the two countries. However, the environment within which they have been created is still not conducive to ensuring the success of women in the social and political arenas.

Deliberative democracy has been important when seeking clarity in various elective posts (Friedman and Hochstetler 2002, 23). Indeed, by moving away from the military dictatorship, the two countries have made major strides in making the people’s voice heard in all aspects of life. The changes in the two countries have been founded on the need to promote the rights of all people, including women. Argentina included efforts to counter communism, an ideoloy that has played a critical role in liberating the women in the country. In the case of Chile, the rights are entrenched within the constitution of 1980, which remains in force to date. These changes have maintained the two countries as stable democracies where the voice and opinion of every member of the country count. The changes not only made the electoral process better in the two countries but also improved the minority members of the community as decision-makers in the running of the two nations.

In a deliberative democracy, decision-making on policy issues has improved in the two countries. The reality is that the democratic space has opened opportunities for deliberations on policy issues. Thus, in any event, that there is a feeling of lack of representation, there will be issues with the policies which are developed. Transparency in decision-making has opened up the space for the participation of women. Argentina has managed to improve its regular engagement with the electorate, and the results are seen in the number of women in the decision-making process. The environment is the same in Chile, where there is an increase in the number of women presenting their voices and opinion in decision-making (Lavrin 1998, 87). Women at the grassroots are propelling other females to important political positions where they will feel well-represented, a situation that has increased the number of women engaged in political decision-making in the two countries.

Women have been granted a role to play when it came to developing stronger ties with the changes noted across the communities. Since the time of the feminist movements, the women in the two countries have organized themselves in efforts to make their voices heard, to create a better life for women, and to develop their communities. In addition, they have played an important part as the vehicles for change in the two countries. Through clubs, organizations, advocacy, and community-based social services, women continue to impact Chile and Argentina (Lavrin 1998, 93). Some of the issues that the women have successfully addressed include identity and sexism, which have traditionally hindered their efforts to move up the ladder of success in their communities. Such issues have been significant for women in the two countries’ history. Through their efforts, some of these concerns are becoming a problem of the past.

Political development amongst women in Chile and Argentina has grown in leaps over time, with feminist waves playing a crucial role in the elective notion of such groups. As a result, women are actively involved in the politics of the country, including in elective positions. Regardless of the achievements, a lot is yet to be done because compared to men, the women in politics are still less. With time, the number of women in active politics and other leadership roles have continued to increase (Lavrin 1998, 93). The path to politics for women in Chile and Argentina has not been so smooth, but they have made progress whatsoever. The future is promising for more women to be found in positions of power, including the presidency and other elective political positions.

In Argentina, there are many women who are currently holding positions of power. Within the government ministries, there are 14 women, including influential figures such as María Julia Alsogaray, Diana Conti, Graciela Fernández Meijide, Débora Giorgi, Felisa Miceli, and María Cecilia Rodríguez. As provincial governors in Argentina, there are eight women, including Lucía Corpacci, Alicia Kirchner, Claudia Ledesma Abdala, and Fabiana Ríos. There are four women mayors in different places in the country, Itúrrez de Cappellini, Mónica Fein, Alicia Lemme, and Luz Sapag. The national congress has many women members, while others serve as Argentine suffragists (Franceschet, Piscopo, and Thomas 2016, 12). The evidence, in this case, is that women in the country have made major efforts and achieved a lot to increase the representation of women in active politics of the country. The situation is far better than when the feminist efforts started in the 1950s. In fact, there are still prospects for a better future.

In Chile, there is similar evidence of an increase in the number of women presented in various areas of the country’s political sphere. The country has had 23 first ladies who have played an active role in changing the place of woman in society. These women have played a critical role in the politics of Chile. Among the influential names include Juana Rosa Aguirre, Rafaela Bezanilla, Hortensia Bussi, Luisa Durán, Gertrudis Echenique, Teresa Larraín, and Enriqueta Pinto. In addition, there are six women as mayors in different places in Chile, Raquel Argandoña, Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, Olga Maturana, Rebeca Cofré, Carmen Romo Sepúlveda, and Carolina Tohá. Indeed, these are just examples of influential women in the politics of Chile. However, the list does not provide the names of all the women in active politics in the country (Franceschet, Piscopo, and Thomas 2016, 10). Just like in Argentina, women’s political space has improved and will continue to improve in the future.

Generally, evidence has revealed that women in Chile and Argentina have, with time, gained success in different areas of life. Politics, social lives, and careers have been argued to have provided a new vision and leash of life for the women in the two countries. Indeed, this is evident in the increase in the number of women in various political positions and other areas, including careers and leadership positions. The history of women is marked by heroines who are strong and independent women and have displayed power and grace in various fields and events since the feminist movement (Lavrin 1998, 126). Various names have come up of individuals who have made remarkable contributions to the two countries’ history. They have shaken up former excellent leaders and professionals and proven that women can achieve great success in a diverse society.


As it is evident from the above discussion, the deliberation of whether legislation has managed to assist in the election of women into positions of power is an important consideration. Feminism played a major role in breaking down the influence of dictatorial leadership across the countries, which has been a huge boost across such avenues. It has been a great opportunity to show the role women play in addressing the political mobility of the less privileged in society with growing trends to build on such growing impacts across the community. Chile and Argentina have shown maturity in their political elections since the 1950s, with the continued development of minority groups leading to the election of a female president. Consequently, understanding the role of the political process concerning the election of women in powerful positions in both Argentina and Chile will be a good opportunity to study the level of democratic maturity attained therein.



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