5 Groundbreaking Ways Spain Champions Women’s Equality
Spain is actually doing a phenomenal job of giving working women what they deserve! It’s been a long and harrowing journey for the women of Spain who’ve endured censorship, violence, and being owned by a man in their fight for political freedom, maternity rights, and equal pay (among other things).
A 2018 report ranked Spain 9th in the EU on the Gender Equality Index. In fact, Spain’s score was higher than the EU’s average, indicating that Spain is progressing towards gender equality at a faster pace than other countries in the EU.
The history of women’s rights in Spain is rife with blood, sweat, and tears—but their fight is finally starting to pay off. Let’s take a look at the top five ways the country is advancing women’s equality in the 21st century!
A Brief Background of Women’s Issues in Spain
Ready to take a look back at the “herstory” in Spain over the past 80 years and why progress is essential for the betterment of the country?
Oppression of Women Under Franco
Women were denied many rights in Francoist Spain from 1939 to 1975 and the subsequent democratic transition until 1985. In an oppressive patriarchal move, the Franco regime made women the legal dependents of their husbands, fathers, or the state. As dictator, Franco banned trade unions and political parties after coming to power in 1938.
Strict censorship affected both the depiction of women in the media and the content that women writers could publish. Although there were loopholes, censorship still harmed much of the work of earlier Spanish women and feminists.
Employment opportunities for women in the Francoist period were limited. Women needed the permission of male guardians to work and were legally barred from myriad jobs. Legal reforms around this system also began in the 1960s.
Women’s equality groups and feminist organizations finally began to emerge in the mid-1960s. Yet, authentic change would not occur until 1978 when the law changed to allow for the establishment of feminist associations. Women were excluded from the process of creating a new Spanish constitution. Even so, the 1978 document did return Spain to being a nation that guarantees women full equal rights under the law, at least in theory.
Modern (4th Wave) Feminism in Spain
Fast forward four decades. Shortly after Trump came to power in the US, Spanish feminists staged a women’s march, which was the biggest public protest since the Vietnam War. The same thing happened after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s election. Droves of feminists took to the streets in Madrid and Barcelona to promote women’s equality on International Women’s Day in 2019.
Now, Spain has “arrived” among the top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which rates 153 countries on gender parity. It’s now a leader in fighting gender discrimination in the social, political, and economic spheres. Last year, Spain stood out as one of the most-improved countries, jumping from 29th to 8th place, according to the report.
Top 5 Ways Spain Champions Women’s Equality Today
1. Political Empowerment
In 2018, the government of Spain became the most female-centric worldwide. Approximately 65% of the presidential cabinet are female ministers. When Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón became prime minister in June 2018, he appointed 11 female ministers out of 17. Despite the lack of female heads of state, Spain is progressing in political leadership. In comparison, the global average of females holding parliamentary seats is 25% and ministerial positions is 21%.
2. The Glass Ceiling
Unfortunately, Spanish women’s average share in companies’ board of directors is still only 22%. In the private sector, Spanish women continue to push against the “glass ceiling” that blocks their access to upper management and executive positions. The female proportion on the boards of the IBEX 35 (Spanish Exchange Index) rose from 3% in 2005 to 24% in 2018. Still, the ratio has a long way to go to strike a fair balance between men and women.
3. Closing the Pay Gap
In Spain, the gender earnings gap is 35.7%, illustrating a strong barrier to affording women the same opportunities as men. According to Eurostat, in 2017 women’s hourly earnings were 15.1% below those of men.
In 2019, the Spanish government approved the historic rise of 22% of the minimum wage up to €900 ($1,030) per month. The measure helps reduce the wage gap, as the main beneficiaries are female workers, migrants, and young people. The Spanish government estimates that 70% of minimum wage workers in the country are women.
4. Maternity Leave
Spanish women dedicate approximately 5 hours a day to unpaid work versus 2.5 hours by men. This time mainly consists of household and care of children and other relatives. According to Spanish author of Feminismo para Principiantes (Feminism for Beginners), Nuria Varela:
“The most important issue that’s on the table now is the issue of caregiving because it makes the system unsustainable. The great economists and politicians still don’t see the big black hole that is caregiving duties. Women are meant to enter the workforce under the same conditions as men and for no one to provide care. This isn’t sustainable.”
Spain recently mandated the progressive equalization of paternity leave with maternity leave. Fathers will be given up to 16 paid weeks off by 2021 when a child is born. The decree intends to reduce female underrepresentation in the labor market by encouraging the share of childcare duties.
Another vital challenge in the coming years is preventing the economic gender gap caused by women’s underrepresentation in certain professional fields. Most Spanish women are in careers related to education, health, and welfare. In contrast, men predominate in technical careers such as engineering. Empowering women to access the science, research, and technology sectors is key to changing this trend.
A Fierce Promoter of Women’s Equality
Violence against women is a prominent issue in Spain now, and the media report widely on every case of femicide. Over a thousand cases have been reported since official records began in 2003.
Spanish woman boxer Miriam Gutierrez was a victim of domestic abuse in her early 20s. When she was eight months pregnant, her partner at the time beat her, causing her to give birth prematurely.
She uses boxing, and now politics, to champion women’s equality. Gutierrez earned the European lightweight boxing championship and was elected to the city council of a Madrid suburb called Torrejon de Ardoz in 2019. Gutierrez visits schools to give speeches and offer self-defense classes. Her goal is to raise awareness about gender violence and bullying.
What This Means For You
The progress toward women’s equality in Spain is great news for female travelers and expats in Spain. If you choose to go to Spain to study abroad, take an internship or job, or even move there and start a family, the exciting work opportunities you’ll have will only continue to expand.