Highlights

Spain is Now In The World’s Top 10 For Gender Equality

Spain - 2019 will be remembered for the massive marches of the feminist movement, which struggle has been largely inspired by Spanish women. On the International Women’s Day, 350,000 protestors in Madrid and 200,000 in Barcelona took to the streets to denounce the gender disparities present in our societies.

Now, Spain has made it into the top 10 of the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, establishing its leadership in fighting gender discrimination in the social, political, and economic spheres.

The World Economic Forum report benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity. This year, Spain has become one of the most-improved countries jumping 21 places from the last edition up to the 8th position (79.5%).

Political representation
The main factor in this upturn is linked to women’s political empowerment. In 2018 Spain became the world’s most female-centric government with a share of 65% female ministers in Pedro Sánchez’s cabinet. The socialist acting prime minister appointed 11 female ministers out of 17 when he came to power in June 2018.

In addition, the Spanish Congress became the most equal in the EU with a 47.4% share of women (166 deputies out of 375) after April elections this year.

That meant Spain surpassed countries like Sweden and Finland in terms of female representation. However, the November elections following the political blockade in the country reduced this figure to 43,1%—the fall was mainly due to the rise of the far-right party Vox, whose deputy list only complied with the minimum parity of 30% established by law.

Despite the lack of female heads of state, Spain is doing positive progress in political leadership, especially if we consider the global average of female holding parliamentary seats (25.2%) and ministerial positions (21.2%).

Struggling to smash the glass ceiling
In contrast, women’s share in companies’ board of directors is still 22%. Spanish women continue to face the so-called "glass ceiling" to access the management bodies in the private sector.

Although the female proportion on the boards of the IBEX 35 (Spanish Exchange Index) has risen from 3% in 2005 to 24% in 2018, the ratio remains far from a fair balance between men and women.

The report points that gender parity in Spain also advances in all aspects of economic participation, but women’s sharing in the labor market still below that of men (68.8% versus 78.9%) and there are large gaps in wages and income.

Closing the pay gap
In Spain, the gender overall earnings gap stands at 35.7%, which shows the “strong cultural and business practices barriers to grant women the same opportunities as men,” the WEF report says. According to Eurostat, in 2017 women's gross hourly earnings were 15.1% below those of men.

What is being done in this regard? Last year the Spanish government approved the historic rise of 22% of the minimum wage up to €900 ($1,030) per month.

The executive highlighted the contribution of the measure to fight wage gap since the main beneficiaries were female workers, migrants, and young people. According to the government’s estimates 70% of the recipients of the minimum wage are women.

Shared parental leave
Another push for gender parity has to do with the Spanish decree to progressively equalize the paternity leave with the maternity one, granting fathers up to 16 weeks of permit by 2021 when a child is born.

Spanish women dedicate on average 4 hours and 49 minutes a day to unpaid work (versus 2 hours and 26 minutes by men), which is mainly household and care of children and other relatives.

The decree passed last March aims to reduce female underrepresentation in the labor market by encouraging the share of care tasks.

The government has also extended the obligation to have gender equality plans to companies with more than 50 employees —before March the limit was companies with 250 workers. These plans must include a salary audit and measures of co-responsibility and prevention of sexual harassment.

Another point related to female participation in the economy is education. One of the greatest challenges for the coming years will be preventing the economic gender gap related to women’s under-representation in emerging roles, the report indicated.

Today women have greater representation in roles that are being automated with poorer working conditions. According to the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organizations (CEOE), most of Spanish women are in careers related to education, health, and welfare (>75%), while men predominate in technical careers such as engineering (75% - 87%) or those related to ICTs (90%).

Removing the obstacles blocking women from accessing the science, research, and technology sectors will be key to modify the current academic orientation, which is vital to fight new ways of gender gap.