Gender inequality in Mexico

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Gender inequality in Mexico has been diminishing throughout history, but continues to persist in many forms including the disparity in women's political representation and participation, the gender pay gap, and high rates of domestic violence and femicide. As of 2012, the World Economic Forum ranks Mexico 84th in terms of gender equality out of 135 countries.[1] Furthermore, structural gender inequality is relatively homogeneous between the Mexican states and there are very few regional differences in inequality.[2]

Current issues[edit]

Political participation[edit]

Gender inequality in political representation in the form of overrepresentation of men and underrepresentation of women when compared with the population exists on virtually every level of the Mexican government.[2] Mexico has had very few female cabinet members throughout its history, and has never had a female head of state.[3] According to a 1998 study, women held only 14.2 percent of parliamentary seats in Mexico, putting it behind most developed countries (with the exception of the United States) in female representation.[4]

Work life and economics[edit]

As of 1995, women made up only 29% of Mexico's economically active population and 23% of the wage earning economically active population.[5] Since the 1990s, the number of women in the Mexican workforce has greatly increased, and while men's workforce participation has decreased, the participation of women has increased.[6] The actual percentages of employed versus unemployed women averages about 30-35%, while the percentage of employed men averages around 70%.[6]

In addition, according to a study conducted by Margarita Valdés, 6% of those women in the workforce are employed in either the informal sector and do not have a fixed salary or in the home-based industries sector and receive no salary.[5] More women are employed performing unpaid yet socially important and vital jobs than are men.[3]

A Maya woman, souvenir maker.

Another study found that in professional and technical occupations, there are about 65 women to every 100 men.[2] This study also found that the greatest economic gender inequality exists in business ownership, with 17 businesses owned by women to every 100 businesses owned by men.[2]

Employment rates for women in the Mexican rural labor market are much lower than those of men, despite the fact that the gender ratio of rural laborers is about equal.[6]

Occupational segregation by gender[edit]

Occupational gender segregation takes the form of both horizontal segregation- the unequal gender distribution across occupations- and vertical segregation- the overrepresentation of men in higher positions in both traditionally male and traditionally female fields.[7]

While occupational segregation exists in Mexico, segregation decreased between 1987 and 1993 from an occupational segregation index score of 26.6 to 23.5.[8] This means that 23.5% of women or 76.5% of men would have to move to different career field in order for all occupations to have equal gender composition.

Pay gap[edit]

Main article: Gender pay gap

While the disparity between male and female wages decreased from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the gap began to increase again in 1996 following the Mexican economic crisis. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, the overall wage gap in Mexico as of 2008 is 17.4%.[9] The gap varies by occupation; female teachers in Mexico make 91.2% of the salary of male teachers, while female industrial supervisors make only 66.9% of the wages earned by their male counterparts.[3]

Social life[edit]

Researcher Margarita Valdés noted that while there are few inequalities enforced by law or policy in Mexico, there are gender inequalities perpetuated by social structures and expectations that limit the capabilities of Mexican women; these inequalities are largely maintained by local patriarchal social structures that deny women the possibility of functioning in many different areas.[5]

Violence against women[edit]

Mexico has the 16th highest rate of homicides committed against women, also known as femicide, globally and this rate has been on the rise since 2007.[10] In addition, the state of Mexico has one of the highest rates of domestic violence at 53%.[10] Femicide and gender violence is also more prevalent in regions along the Mexico-US border and in areas of high drug trading activity and drug violence.[11]

According to the 2013 Human Rights Watch, many women do not seek out legal redress after being victims of domestic violence and sexual assault because "the severity of punishments for some sexual offenses contingent on the "chastity" of the victim" and "those who do report them are generally met with suspicion, apathy, and disrespect."[12]

According to a 1997 study by Kaja Finkler, domestic abuse "is embedded in gender and marital relations fostered in Mexican women's dependence on their spouses for subsistence and for self-esteem, sustained by ideologies of romantic love, by family structure and residential arrangements."[13]


Since 2008, 16 of the 32 states have illegalized abortion, though the Supreme Court have upheld the constitutionality of laws permitting abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy and has ruled that every state must provide emergency contraception and access to abortion for rape victims; however, many women face barriers including inaccurate information, undue delays, and intimidation by officials to accessing these services.[12]

In poorer regions of Mexico with large indigenous communities also experience high levels of STDs and health problems; for example, at least 778 women in the state of Oaxaca, one-third of the population of which is indigenous, died during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum between 1995 and 2004.[14]


As of 2012, the World Economic Forum ranks Mexico 69th in terms of gender equality in education attainment out of 135 countries.[1] Mexico also ranks 75th in equality in literacy rates, tied for first (at parity) in equality in primary and secondary education enrollment, and 98th in equality in tertiary education enrollment.[1] This disparity is more prevalent for girls in low-income families, as these children are more likely to participate in domestic activities in the home rather than attend school.[15]

A study conducted by Sonia Frias found that in many Mexican states, the number of average years of education is at parity for men and women and literacy rates are nearly equal (100 literate men to 98 literate women); the gap, however, increases in college and graduate education, with 78 and 54 women to 100 men respectively.[2] This study also found that there were only 31 women to every 100 men in STEM fields of education.[2] In addition, as of 1995, 15% of the female population of Mexico is illiterate.[5]

Mexico is also one of only three OECD countries, the others being Switzerland and Turkey, where more men than women have obtained a tertiary education.[16]

Telenovelas as an educational tool[edit]

The Mexican government in collaboration with Mexican TV has used telenovelas as a means to promote social change, particularly among women. Miguel Sabido was a pioneer in what is known as edutainment, which uses media as its means to disseminate messages on such topics as adult education (Ven Conmigo "come with me"), gender equality (Nosotros las mujeres, "we women"), sexual responsibility (Caminemos "let's go"), and family planning (Acompañame "come with me").[17][18] Sabido, a former vice president of Televisa, produced programs in the late 1970s. He said of the effort

My intention was to have commercial television produce social benefits through telenovelas, which are viewed by the very people who most need to become better informed. I wanted to provide those viewers with the tools they need to improve their own lives. I set up study groups to analyze behaviors and ways of incorporating positive messages without betraying the rules of the genre. I capitalized on the shows' capacity for moral reflection about good and evil and showed how all this could be done without hurting their ratings.[19]

The results were impressive in some areas, with Mexico's surging population growth decreased following the airing of the telenovela about family planning. The number of phone calls to request information about family planning increased, sales of birth control pills rose, and over half a million women sought family planning following the 1977 airing of the telenovela "Accoompany me."[20][21]

Government policy[edit]

Mexico's Supreme Court declared marital rape illegal in November 2005.[22] The Mexican government adopted the General Act on Equality between Women and Men which was intended to establish a connect between the federal and the state level in the creation of policies and legal provisions in relation to gender equality in 2006.[23]

The government social welfare program Oportunidades provides more assistance to families with daughters in order to create more incentives for their families to send them to school.[16] Mexico has also earmarked funds, as of 2010, in order to "incorporate the gender dimension in educational programmes and initiatives."[16]

However, according to Rupert Knox, researcher on Mexico at Amnesty International, "In the past years, Mexico has approved a number of laws and institutions designed to protect women from discrimination and violence. Much of the problem, however, lies in the lack of effective implementation of these laws and the weakness of the institutions."[24]


The World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index for 2012 ranked Mexico 84th out of 135 countries for gender equality. It was ranked 113th in economic participation and opportunity, 69th in educational attainment, 48th in political empowerment, and tied for 1st in health and survival.[1]

The United Nation's Gender Inequality Index (part of the Human Development Report) for 2013 had Mexico ranked 61st out of 186 countries for gender equality; Mexico's ranking on this index had gone up from its rank in 2012, which was 72nd.[25] This is an improvement from its ranking in 2010, when it ranked 68th out of 169 countries.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ricardo Hausmann, Laura D. Tyson, Saadia Zahidi, Editors (2012). "The Global Gender Gap Report 2012" (PDF). World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Frias, Sonia M. (2008). "Measuring Structural Gender Equality in Mexico: A State Level Analysis". Social Indicators Research. 88.2: 215–246. doi:10.1007/s11205-007-9193-4. 
  3. ^ a b c Rhoda, Richard and Tony Burton. "Female quality of life in Mexico". MexConnect. MexConnect. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Kenworthy, L.; Malami, M. (1 September 1999). "Gender Inequality in Political Representation: A Worldwide Comparative Analysis". Social Forces. 78 (1): 235–268. doi:10.1093/sf/78.1.235. 
  5. ^ a b c d Valdés, Margarita M. (1995). Nussbaum M. e Glover J., ed. Inequality in capabilities between men and women in Mexico. pp. 426–433. 
  6. ^ a b c Pagan, Jose A.; Sanchez, Susana M. (April 2000). "Gender Differences in Labor Market Decisions: Evidence from Rural Mexico". Economic Development and Cultural Change. 48 (3): 619–637. doi:10.1086/452612. 
  7. ^ Charles, Maria (December 2003). "Deciphering Sex Segregation: Vertical and Horizontal Inequalities in Ten National Labor Markets" (PDF). ACTA SOCIOLOGICA. No. 4. 46: 267–287. doi:10.1177/0001699303464001. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Brown, Cynthia J.; Pagan, Jose A.; Rodriguez-Oreggia, Eduardo (October 1999). "Occupational Attainment and Gender Earnings Differentials in Mexico". Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 53 (1): 123. doi:10.2307/2696165. JSTOR 2696165. 
  9. ^ Tijdens, K.G., Van Klaveren, M. "Frozen in time: Gender pay gap unchanged for 10 years" (PDF). International Trade Union Confederation. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Femicide and Impunity in Mexico: A context of structural and generalized violence" (PDF). Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Wright, Melissa W. (March 2011). "Necropolitics, Narcopolitics, and Femicide: Gendered Violence on the Mexico-U.S. Border". Signs. 36 (3): 707–731. doi:10.1086/657496. JSTOR 10.1086/657496. 
  12. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. "World Report 2013: Mexico". Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Finkler, Kaja (1997). "Gender, domestic violence and sickness in Mexico.". Social Science & Medicine. 45 (8): 1147–1160. doi:10.1016/s0277-9536(97)00023-3. 
  14. ^ Loewenberg, Samuel (March 23, 2010). "Mexico: Ethnic and Gender Inequalities". The Pulitzer Center. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  15. ^ POST, D. (1 June 2001). "REGION, POVERTY, SIBSHIP, AND GENDER INEQUALITY IN MEXICAN EDUCATION: Will Targeted Welfare Policy Make a Difference for Girls?". Gender & Society. 15 (3): 468–489. doi:10.1177/089124301015003008. 
  16. ^ a b c OECD. "Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level Paris, 25-26 May 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Paula Andaló, "Love, tears, betrayal...and health messages." Perspectives in Health Magazine: The Magazine of the Pan American Health Organization. vol. 8, no. 2, 2003.
  18. ^ Gabriela Soto Laveaga, "'Let's become fewer': Soap operas, contraception, and nationalizing the family in an overpopulated world." Sexuality Research and Social Policy, September 2007, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 19.
  19. ^ Miguel Sabido quoted in Paula Andaló, "Love tears, and betrayal"
  20. ^ Andaló, "Love, tears, betrayal"
  21. ^ Soto Laveaga, "Let's become fewer"
  22. ^ BARCLAY, ELIZA (November 28, 2005). "Women's advocates make gains in Mexico". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  23. ^ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. "Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Mexico" (PDF). Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  24. ^ Trimel, Suzanne (July 12, 2012). "State of Women's Rights in Mexico 'Alarming,' Authorities Urged to Stop Escalating Violence Against Women". Amnesty International. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  25. ^ United Nations Development Programme. "Human Development Report 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  26. ^ The Catalist. "Mexico Making Progress in Gender Equality". Retrieved 6 April 2014.