The Women’s Leadership Conference of the Americas (WLCA)—a joint initiative of the Inter-American Dialogue and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)—is pleased to present this report on women in political power in the hemisphere. The WLCA believes that the number of women in political leadership is a concrete indicator of a country’s progress (or lack thereof) toward fulfilling its commitment to women’s equity. The WLCA is releasing this report prior to the third Summit of the Americas—taking place in Quebec City, Canada, on April 20 to 22, 2001—as part of its continuing efforts to monitor progress on promises made to women.
The WLCA seeks to influence the summit process on behalf of women. The WLCA was key in getting women’s concerns on the agenda of the first Summit of the Americas in Miami. Published as Communiqué to the Presidents of the Americas, the recommendations of the WLCA were conveyed to summit participants. This initiative led to the inclusion of a women’s initiative in the summit’s final Plan of Action, and shaped the content of that initiative. A second Communiqué was issued prior to the Santiago Summit. It addressed the lack of progress since the Miami Summit, suggested more specific steps, and called for monitoring and reporting by governments.
The first two summits have not produced strong government action on women’s issues. The WLCA is working toward making this summit different. We want the heads of state to set out goals that are concrete and measurable, and we plan to hold governments accountable. This report card highlights one type of measure that heads of state can effectively implement. Presidents and prime ministers can appoint more women into their cabinets, and take action to encourage equitable representation of women on election ballots. For that reason, we urge the heads of state who will gather in Quebec City later this month to pay attention to their performance and work to improve it.
The WLCA is a network of some 100 women leaders drawn from throughout the hemisphere, dedicated to expanding the numbers and enhancing the contribution of women in top leadership positions in Latin America and the Caribbean—and, in so doing—to help improve opportunities for all women in the region. The group’s commitment to this mission is based on the conviction that leadership does matter, and that women in positions of power and influence will contribute in critical ways to the broader expansion of women ’s rights and opportunities in all sectors.
This report card would not have been possible without the sustained support of The Ford Foundation and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Special thanks are in order to Mala Htun of the New School University for conducting the research and analysis with the assistance of Kelly Alderson of the Dialogue.
Geeta Rao Gupta
International Research Center on Women (ICRW)
Joan M. Caivano
Women’s Leadership Conference of the Americas (WCLA)
Despite taking significant steps towards a more gender-balanced political system –notably the recent adoption of female representation quotas— Colombia, like many other Latin American countries, continues to struggle with the legacies of pervasive social, economic and political inequality that disproportionately affect women. The study gauges the effect that campaign finance has for aspiring female leaders, and puts it in the context of broader social and cultural barriers that hinder women’s political activism throughout the region.
Latin America has made significant strides over the past four decades to equalize opportunities for women in education, healthcare, and employment. Yet according to Augusto de la Torre, chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, these “first generation” gender gains are leading to second generation challenges that must be addressed to ensure equitable outcomes in the future.
On May 21, 2010, the Dialogue and the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University jointly sponsored an event on gender equality in Cuba. Cuba has a solid record on gender equality based on some social indicators, with higher percentages of women involved in politics than most of its Latin American counterparts, but lacks women in the highest tiers of power.