Leadership in Public Arenas

Women are excluded to a large extent from holding political office although since 1953 they can vote and be voted for. Formal politics are male dominated (Browner, 1986, p. 95; Brunt, 1992, p. 78; Canak & Swanson, 1998, p. 78). Yet although leadership in public arenas, such as an ejido commission or the governance of a municipality, is male dominated, there are several examples of direct female influence. Martin (1994) describes the pressure that a group of women in rural Mexico exercised on local politics. The women went so far as to occupy the town hall for several days to promote a politician favored by them. Women played a prominent role in the social movement to secure new housing for the displaced families after the calamitous earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 (Finkler, 1994, p. 70). In the past, women participated as leaders and soldiers in the Mexican Revolution (Chant, 1997, p. 126).

Most of women's political involvement and leadership in public arenas is associated with female household roles (Bennett, 1995; Martin, 1990). Several women have led protests for better community services (e.g., Fowler-Salamini & Vaughan, 1994). The numerous female upheavals pleading for installation or improvement of water services in Monterrey, northern Mexico, are an example of this type of social protest (Bennett, 1995). Yet, there are class differences. Collective action like the public water protest is more typical for working-class women.

One reason why men dominate formal politics on the local as well as on the national level lies in the different make-up of male and female social networks (Brunt, 1992, p. 98). Female networks are mainly horizontal. They are built on exchange and help within the domestic sphere. Male networks, on the other hand, are more often related to a man's occupation and are more vertical in nature.

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