Courtesy of Maritza Ríos / Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to holding a Ph.D in energy engineering and winning a Nobel Prize alongside other researchers, Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum is a political superwoman. The former mayor of Mexico City and the winner of the June 2 general election, Sheinbaum is the first woman and the first Jewish person to be elected president in the republic’s 200-year history.

Sheinbaum, a leftist, campaigned with the promise of continuing the legacy of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, her predecessor. During López Obrador’s presidency, poverty in Mexico decreased, workers’ benefits improved and the minimum wage doubled. However, he has received criticism for his reportedly ineffective approach to controlling cartel violence and his overallocation of power to the military. 

Sheinbaum has said she plans to continue López Obrador’s focus on the social issues in Mexico, as well as increase the national guard’s presence and reduce impunity, to reduce the cartel violence that has displaced thousands and has marred campaign cycles with tragedy. 

President-elect Sheinbaum will inherit the country’s leadership at a formative time, as Mexico is the United States’ largest trading partner and its currency, the peso, is incredibly strong. The fate of the upcoming U.S. presidential election is inextricably tied with Sheinbaum’s destiny and future success as president, given that the return of Donald J. Trump to the White House would have unpredictable effects on relations between Mexico and the U.S.. 

Courtesy of RODRIGO JARDÓN via Wikimedia Commons

Sheinbaum’s victory is particularly poignant given the low rates of nation-level female leadership internationally. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center study, only about a third of U.N. member countries have ever had a woman leader. As of May 2024, there are only 28 countries with women serving as heads of state or government. Sheinbaum joins the ranks of historical female heads of state, such as Sirimavo Bandaranaike, former prime minister of Sri Lanka and the world’s first female prime minister, and former President of Argentina Isabel Perón, who was the first female president. 

More than 100 countries have never been led by a woman — including the United States. And Mexico is far from perfect; women earn 16% less than men and face extreme levels of gender-based violence. Voters wonder whether President-elect Sheinbaum will improve life for Mexican women, through her visions for alleviating the burden of unpaid care work carried out by women and her own experience as a woman born and raised in Mexico. Will other female politicians follow her lead and rise to the top of their country? Time will tell. 

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