Breaking the Latin American Glass Ceiling: An Analysis of the Southern Cone Female Presidents’ Paths to Power

Imhoff, Danielle
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University of Delaware
This paper will examine the political and social environments in Argentina and Chile prior to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet’s elections to their respective presidencies. The ways in which both countries viewed women in politics matters for how and why these two politicians were elected in the patriarchal region of Latin America. Argentina is known as a progressive country for women because of Eva Perón’s vivacious personality, Isabel Perón’s first female presidency worldwide, the famous Madres de la Plaza de Mayo movement, and the creation of the world’s first legislative gender quota. Chile, on the other hand, has a history of excluding women from both politics and the public sphere, and Augusto Pinochet’s seventeen-year long military dictatorship furthered this public-private divide for women. Interestingly enough, though, within the past decade, both countries have witnessed the election and reelection of a woman to the presidency. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose husband was her presidential predecessor, was committed to social justice and her femininity, much like her role model, Eva Perón. Michelle Bachelet was instead dedicated to creating a new precedent for women in government in Chile and utilized her feminist ideals in the process. This paper will explain Argentina and Chile’s differing women’s political histories, demonstrate how and why each woman was elected in her respective country, and compare both women’s paths to presidential power. This topic is important because there is a lack of female leaders worldwide; therefore, by studying and examining two distinct countries with successful female presidential elections, political patterns can develop.
International Relations , Political Science