Could A Woman Be President?

Women have been democratic heads of state in 70 countries as of 2017.  To balance that, in 77 countries no woman has held the highest elected office in the land. What political opportunities are there for women in North America and Latin America? We could guess that North America might be a leader in gender representation. Let’s start up north with Canada, where in 1993 they had a female Prime Minister for five months named Kim Campbell. In addition, three women have held the position of Governor General. (The US can’t match that, especially since we’re not a Commonwealth.) The United States and Mexico are tied with zero women Presidents to date, although female candidates ran in both nations’ recent elections.

Looking at Central America, voters have elected three women presidents; Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997) in Nicaragua, Laura Chinchilla Miranda (2010-2014) in Costa Rica, and in Panama, a President’s widow, Mireya Moscoso (1999-2004).

South America led the charge 45 years ago. Isabel Perón was the first woman president in Latin America (1974-1976), widow of President Juan Perón. A second widow President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took the helm in Buenos Aires 31 years later (2007-2015). Brazil elected a woman president in 2011, Dilma Rousseff. She reached that position on her own steam. Unfortunately she was impeached in 2016.

In Chile, Michelle Bachelet was President from 2006-2010 and 2014-2018. Her success was not due to marriage and there are no political gender quotas in Chile. In Ecuador, Rosalia Arteaga was President briefly. Women have been Prime Ministers from a short interim to a year’s time in Bolivia and Peru. Sila María Calderón was the first woman governor of Puerto Rico in 2001.

Female American Heads of State (minus the Caribbean, Belize & Guyanas)

Country Name Office Dates
Canada Kim Cambell Prime Minister 1993 (5 months)
Nicaragua Violeta Chamorro President 1990-1997
Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla Miranda President 2010-2014
Panamá Mireya Moscoso President 1999-2004
Chile Michelle Bachelet President 2006-2010 and 2014-2018
Argentina Isabel Perón President 1974-1976
Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner President 2007-2015
Brazil Dilma Rousseff President 2011-2016
Ecuador Rosalia Arteaga President 1997 (5 days)
Bolivia Lidia Gueiler Tejada Prime Minister * 1979-1980
Perú Beatriz Merino Prime Minister * 2003 (6 months)
Perú Rosario Fernández Prime Minister * 2011 (4 months)
Perú Ana Jara Prime Minister * 2014-2015

*Prime Ministers in Bolivia and Perú are second in line, after the President.

Although no women hold the top offices in Latin America currently, historically it is the region with the most female presidents and prime ministers. Why? Theories abound, since Argentina’s Perón, widows are embraced as candidates and heads of state in the area. However, that only explains a handful of cases. Another factor to examine are the political gender quotas in many Latin American countries. Gender quotas vary by nation; between 20 and 50% of candidates must be women. These rules don’t guarantee success, but they may be a start.

Has a woman been head of state in the country where you live?

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé! –Rebecca

Para leer este ensayo en español, haz un clic en ¿Es posible tener Presidentas?

The images of the Argentine (header), Costa Rican and Chilean flags are public domain. In the first column above, Nicaragua’s flag’s artist is noted in the lower right corner.

The flags of Panama, Brazil and Ecuador above, Bolivia and Peru below.



Rebecca Cuningham

12 thoughts on “Could A Woman Be President?

  1. This is a great post for contemplation Rebecca! Plus the accompanying article was illuminating, even for someone who currently lives in Latin America. Nope, no female presidents yet in Colombia, but the current President, Ivan Duque, has tried to soften his right-wing policies by appointing females to head half of his administration’s cabinet positions.

    The take away seems to be that the USA tries to project an image of equality for all (including women), but in reality we all know it’s merely a facade with no substance. The hypocrisy of ‘do as we say, not as we do’ comes to mind here. I am SO ready to see a woman sitting in the Oval Office!

    Liked by 2 people

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