Gender equality in Spain has come further than you might think

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

- 21 leaps in one year to a Nr 8 placement.

Photo: "Beautiful wrinkles of experience" by Rubén Bagüés taken in Zaragoza, Spain.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020, compiled by the World Economic Forum, shows there is some good progress. For Ethiopia, Spain, Mali, Albania and Mexico, the improvements in gender quality are especially noteworthy. Key reason: a substantial increase in women’s presence in political institutions, resulting in a powerful bounce up the index.

In the top 10-list we see the usual top students in Gender Equality. The score goes from 0-1 and at first place in the ranking is Iceland (0.877). Followed by Norway on second place (0.842), Finland is on the third place (0.832) and on forth place is Sweden (0.820).

The Nordic countries usually take home medals in this kind of "beauty contest". Maybe more of surprise is to see Spain standing out at number 8 (0.795), after taking 21 giant steps up the ranking, in just one year.

The top 10 ranking:

1. Iceland

2. Norway

3. Finland

4. Sweden

5. Nicaragua

6. New Zealand

7. Ireland

8. Spain

9. Rwanda

10. Germany

For context, I am a Swedish woman living in Valencia, Spain since 3 years ago. I also lived in Madrid, Spain more than 15 years ago for a couple of years.

From my perspective there has been a huge transformation in the gender equality department during that relatively short time period of 15 years, now clearly visible in this global gender gap ranking.

I found the strong weight given to the parameter "politically empowered women" massively interesting. Because I think that for true gender equality to take place, female leadership and male leadership need to both be highly valued, without one type being claimed as better than the other.

From the Global Gender Gap Report 2020:

"Spain jumps 21 places from the previous edition, largely as a result of the nomination in 2018 of the world’s most female-centric government where 65% of ministers are women. It is one of the only 10 governments in the world with a share of 50% or more."

I’m thinking that this greater appreciation for Female Leadership is getting viewed to be as important in the debate in the future as equal pay and equal parental leave.

Is the backbone of the household becoming a backbone also in business?

Women are the backbone of the Spanish household and no one has more respect than the "abuela" (grandmother). If you have been in Spain you might have seen these powerful Abuelas radiantly walking arm-in-arm, ruling the pavement in groups of three or four.

Tip: Do NOT expect them to split up their sisters-in-arms embrace for you to pass through!!

Yes, it is true that compared to in the Nordic countries, Spanish women get shorter maternity leave and it is also (still) considered an obstacle for your career if you want to have children. But then again, that is true for most countries, and I would argue that even in "perfect" Sweden, women still struggle to find internal peace between wanting to be a good mother and having an interesting career while constantly feeling judged, regardless of their salary.

And just because Scandinavian men are encouraged and legally allowed parental leave doesn't mean that they actually do it.

So I am not sure that "only" a stricter and more equal pay and parental leave will fix the gender gap. But I do think that a deeper understanding and respect for different kinds of Leadership will help us in getting there!

POSSIBLE: Spanish, female startup founder with 3 kids

Role models are great and very needed to prove that it's possible. Carlotta Pi, co-founder of Holaluz, a successful Cleantech startup founded in Barcelona, is instilling hope into many Spanish women with both Entrepreneurial AND Motherhood dreams.

In an interview with Aleteia, she says:

"I leave work in the afternoon at a reasonable time, and then go pick up my kids at school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For the other days, I make arrangements with their grandmother.”

And while Spanish gender equality strengthens, the money follows. As written in this post "Spanish women-led startups get access to more VC cash", Wayra, Telefonica´s startup accelerator, announced last year (2019) that they will dedicate €2 million in funding on women-led startups in Spain. I believe that many more VC's will follow this trail in 2020.

Self awareness, another key to the gender equality puzzle

In an analysis of the Global Gender Gap 2020 report, the governmental PR agency "This is the real Spain" writes;

"The Spanish society is also one of the most vocal and critical in terms of the barriers and roles imposed on women in areas such as family, and the professional and educational sectors."

And continues: "We have the highest percentage of citizens who recognize that there is still, much to be done in terms of equality in the world of business, sports, the media and cinema. 63% of Spaniards consider that there is also a lot of work to be done in the area of family reconciliation and household tasks."

Looking at the results from the "Women in Business 2020" report by Grant Thornton, being vocal about your wants and needs among Spanish women, seems to have paid off well.

According to this report:

"The worldwide average of women in senior management positions, in companies with 50 to 500 employees, remains at 29%. In Spain there is an increase from 30% to 34%, the highest increase in 16 years."

Among the 32 countries and 5,000 medium sized companies analyzed, only Poland showed a higher result at 38%.

Spain is well above worldwide average of women in senior management positions. Photo: Unsplash

While I agree with everyone saying that there is still much work to be done, let's also acknowledge the steps already taken. In the case of Spain: 21 solid, equality steps forward!!

Crafted by Caroline Lagergren

What do you need to know about Spain's startup ecosystem? Get this 70 pages, data-rich* report for clarity! (€20): REPORT: Spain's startup ecosystem and digital economy * Packed with names you will want to contact. ;)

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