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Leslie Schwindt-Bayer


A consolidated representative democracy requires representation of all citizens—including women. Yet, most Latin American countries fall short of gender equality in legislative representation at the national level. In this paper, I analyze women’s representation in Latin America asking three questions:  What does women’s representation in Latin America look like? Why does it look that way? And, what are the consequences of women’s representation for legislative politics and democracy in Latin America? I answer these questions drawing on recent research conducted on women’s representation and present original data from my research on women’s representation in Latin America. I conclude that women’s representation in national legislatures has increased over time in just about every country but to varying degrees. Women’s representation today continues to vary widely across the region. The primary explanation for this is the nature of electoral institutions in Latin American countries—specifically, the magnitude of electoral districts, gender quota laws, party control over their ballots. The benefits of including women in national legislatures are myriad but include most importantly greater attention to women’s issues in the legislative arena. Yet, challenges still persist for women in political office, specifically, their continued lack of access to real political power. These obstacles must be addressed for women to attain full political representation in Latin American democracies, and thus, for Latin American democracies to be fully consolidated.


Women; Gender; Legislatures; Latin America; Representation

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