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Latin America: Ready for Women to Lead

Latin America: Ready for Women to Lead

by Johanna Godoy and Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • Strong majorities say it is possible to have a woman leader in 10 years
  • Women preferred over men as managers
  • Women should be given scholarships to promote higher education
  • Many feel movements such as #MeToo are helping women

Fitting with the U.N.'s theme for International Women's Day this year -- women in leadership -- Gallup looks at the never-before-released results on a series of questions that we asked on this topic in 2019 and early 2020.

Gallup asked women and men in 74 countries questions in four areas that are key to starting conversations in an action-driven way: women's leadership in politics and in the workplace, their opportunities for education, and whether movements such as #MeToo help to reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women.

Most in Latin America Think a Woman Could Lead Them in the Next 10 Years

Although Latin America had as many as four female presidents leading their respective countries in 2014, since then, the region has had a dearth of female heads of state. However, strong majorities across all countries -- ranging from a low of 75% in Guatemala to a high of 92% in Uruguay and Venezuela -- expect this could change in the next 10 years.

Strong Majorities in Latin America See Female Leader on Horizon
In your opinion, is it possible or not possible that a woman could be the leader of this country within the next 10 years?
Possible Not Possible Woman already leads my country*
% % %
Uruguay 92 5 --
Venezuela 92 6 --
Chile 91 6 --
Argentina 90 7 --
Colombia 90 9 --
Panama 89 9 --
Mexico 89 9 --
Ecuador 88 9 --
Costa Rica 88 9 1
Bolivia 86 10 --
El Salvador 86 9 --
Paraguay 86 10 --
Dominican Republic 85 13 --
Peru 84 14 --
Brazil 84 12 --
Jamaica 79 16 1
Honduras 79 17 --
Nicaragua 78 13 1
Guatemala 75 20 --
* Volunteered response
Gallup World Poll, 2019

The fact that few people in most countries entertain that it is not possible for a woman to lead their countries reflects how relatively commonplace it has been in Latin America. Between 2006 and 2018, at least one woman occupied the top political office in a Latin American country. And, while no woman currently serves as president, at the time of the surveys, eight served as vice presidents, and women held nearly 29% of the region's cabinet positions.

Despite concerns about women backsliding at the top levels of leadership, women -- and men -- are both confident in the eventuality that they could have a female leader someday soon. Similar high percentages of women and men in every country say that a woman could lead their respective country in the next decade. This includes in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, where women have already occupied the top political office, and strong majorities of both say it could happen again.

Female Managers Preferred Over Male Managers

In the years leading up to the pandemic, data from the International Labor Organization showed Latin America and the Caribbean, along with Europe, were leading the way in increasing the percentage of women in management positions. And, in several countries in Latin America, more managers were women than men.

This appears to be the preferred situation in most countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. In every country surveyed, if people had a preference, they say they would prefer to have a female manager rather than a male manager. A median of 46% across the 19 countries say they would prefer to have a female manager -- if they could choose -- while a median of 22% say they would prefer a male. Nearly three in 10 (28%) have no preference.

Female Managers Generally Preferred Over Male Managers
Suppose you were taking a new job and had your choice of a manager. Would you prefer to work for a man or a woman?
Woman Man No preference
% % %
Dominican Republic 57 29 12
Peru 55 20 22
Colombia 54 22 20
Panama 52 24 20
Paraguay 48 20 31
Honduras 48 22 25
Brazil 47 23 28
El Salvador 47 19 28
Bolivia 47 18 30
Ecuador 46 15 36
Venezuela 45 26 27
Guatemala 45 28 21
Nicaragua 44 22 28
Mexico 41 15 40
Jamaica 38 32 25
Chile 37 24 37
Argentina 36 25 37
Costa Rica 34 22 41
Uruguay 28 16 53
World Poll, 2019

Women and men in the region both generally prefer to have a female manager, but women are far more likely than men to feel this way and to have a preference at all. A median of 56% of women say they would prefer a female manager -- if they could choose -- and 20% say they would prefer a male. Among men, a median of 33% prefer a female as a manager, and 24% prefer a male -- 38% have no preference.

More Believe Similarly Qualified Women Should Get College Scholarships

Women in Latin America have been catching up with men in higher education over the past several decades, and in most countries in the region, women now make up a larger share of tertiary graduates.

Despite these strides for women, in every country across the region, people are more likely to say that similarly qualified women rather than men should get a university scholarship if only one such scholarship was available. A median of 50% say the scholarship should go to the woman, while 9% say to the man. One in three (33%) have no preference.

Latin Americans Prefer Women to Receive Scholarships
Suppose a university is going to give just ONE scholarship that pays all expenses related to education. There are two people who are equally qualified -- a young man and a young woman. In your opinion, who should receive this scholarship, the man or the woman?
Woman Man No preference
% % %
Dominican Republic 73 12 12
Venezuela 68 5 25
Colombia 68 7 23
Honduras 63 10 24
Brazil 62 7 28
Panama 61 9 26
Nicaragua 57 10 28
Guatemala 56 15 25
Peru 53 11 33
El Salvador 50 12 33
Paraguay 50 10 37
Ecuador 49 6 42
Argentina 49 8 41
Bolivia 47 10 38
Mexico 46 5 47
Costa Rica 43 7 48
Jamaica 43 25 22
Chile 42 6 49
Uruguay 41 3 50
World Poll, 2019

Both women and men in every country are more likely to say scholarships should go to women, but again, women are more likely than men to feel this way and to have a preference. A median of 58% of women in the region say the scholarship should go to the woman, while just 5% say to the man. Among men, a median of 42% say the scholarship should go to the woman, and 13% say the man. The rest have no preference.

Movements Such as #MeToo Are More Likely Seen as Helping Women

In a number of countries in Latin America, there have been movements similar to #MeToo in the U.S. This includes #NiUnaMenos, which started in Argentina and spread across a region that continues to grapple with high levels of domestic violence and some of the highest femicide rates in the world. These problems have only been compounded during the COVID-19 lockdowns, as women find themselves trapped at home with their abusers -- like may other women around the world.

Several of the movements are credited with driving positive change for women in the region, including pressuring lawmakers to include gender parity in Chile's new constitution. And, people surveyed across Latin America in 2019 are largely aware of these movements and generally think they help reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women in their countries. In Argentina, for example, 45% of residents say that these types of movements are helpful, while 30% say they are not.

#MeToo Movement Helpful to Women
#MeToo is a worldwide movement to publicly condemn sexual harassment and sexual assault of women. Do you think movements like #MeToo help to reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women in this country?
Yes No
% %
Dominican Republic 56 28
Brazil 55 27
Colombia 55 29
Ecuador 55 24
Nicaragua 54 26
Venezuela 53 25
El Salvador 52 26
Mexico 51 33
Panama 51 33
Guatemala 51 35
Costa Rica 50 32
Bolivia 48 25
Peru 48 37
Honduras 48 31
Chile 46 25
Argentina 45 30
Jamaica 45 26
Uruguay 44 26
Paraguay 31 21
World Poll, 2019

Women and men across the region are both more likely to see these movements as helpful than not, but women notably are somewhat less convinced than men. A median of 48% of women compared with 53% of men say that these movements help reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women in their countries.


In Latin America, based on these questions, the foundation exists to build a more equal future for women and men in a COVID-19 world. Women and men in the region are ready for women to lead -- in politics, in the workplace and in the classroom.

But problems with violence and inequality remain significant hurdles for women in the region, and much of this cannot change until women are viewed with more respect and dignity -- and lawmakers enact policies that support that. And in that regard, Gallup data show both of these are perceived to still be in short supply. As they have for the past decade, Latin American countries in 2020 continued to dominate the list of countries where women are viewed as being treated with the least respect -- which is supported by the high numbers in the region who are mistreated physically and mentally.

Listen to Johanna Godoy discuss the issues facing women in Latin America today and in the future.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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