Role of Women

Role of Women

Beginning in the 1970s and over the next two decades, dramatic changes occurred in the role of women in the Mexican economy. In 1990 women represented 31 percent of the economically active population, double the percentage recorded twenty years earlier. The demographics of women in the workforce also changed during this period. In 1980 the typical female worker was under twenty-five years of age. Her participation in the workforce was usually transitional and would end following marriage or childbirth. After the 1970s, however, an emerging feminist movement made it more acceptable for educated Mexican women to pursue careers. In addition, the economic crisis of the 1980s required many married women to return to the job market to help supplement their husbands' income. About 70 percent of women workers in the mid-1990s were employed in the tertiary sector of the economy, usually at wages below those of men.

The growing presence of women in the workforce contributed to some changes in social attitudes, despite the prevalence of other more traditional attitudes. The UNAM 1995 national opinion survey, for example, found a growing acceptance that men and women should share in family responsibilities. Approximately half of all respondents agreed that husbands and wives should jointly handle child-care duties and perform housekeeping chores. However, such views were strongly related to income and educational level. Low income and minimally educated respondents regarded household tasks as women's work. The UNAM responses correlated with the findings of Mercedes González de la Rocha, whose research focused on working-class households in Guadalajara. González de la Rocha reported that the members of these households held traditional norms and values regarding the roles of men and women. In addition, these women were often subjected to control, domination, and violence by men.

Observers noted that women generally were held to a stricter sexual code of conduct than men. Sexual activity outside of marriage was regarded as immoral for "decent" women but acceptable for men.

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