Divide between Men and Women

Divide between Men and Women

Jordi Sevilla, Belén Santa Cruz and Diana Ortega, economists

Key points
  • 1
       The mass mobilisations calling for equality between women and men are the best and most faithful reflection of the gender gap that is manifest the world over. Despite the progress made in recent decades, Spain is still a long way from achieving real and effective gender equality; a profound fracture still persists which urges analysis if Spain is to aspire to being the fair and equal country so demanded by Spanish civil society. In this sense, a feminist wave is currently sweeping the world and growing in strength: “feminism 4.0” (according to the term coined by Nuria Varela in her book Feminismo 4.0. La cuarta ola). This feminism is proposing important challenges, such as putting an end to the opportunity cost, in economic and talent terms, of the gender gap, finding a new space for coexistence and ensuring that society advances towards a new egalitarian reality.
  • 2
       The main international bodies recognise the progress, in gender equality terms, that Spain has made in recent years, without ceasing to highlight aspects needing improvement. Following the pandemic, in the year 2021, we have moved from being in the eighth position worldwide to 14th (ninth if we reduce the sphere of analysis to Western Europe and North America, while in the pre-pandemic we occupied the sixth) of the 156 countries included in the Global Gender Gap Report in 2021. This study, which has analysed the gender gaps in 153 countries since 2006, has shown Iceland to be the best performing country for more than 10 years. This report highlights the need to introduce improvements in the spheres of education; wage equality and incomes; the presence of women in management posts; reconciliation between personal, working, and family life; and the recognition of the care economy and other, nonremunerated activities.
  • 3
       One of the most notorious gaps in this area is manifest in the labour market, where there are prominently high unemployment rates among women and employment precarity rates among the general population, as well as a wage gap that borders 22%. Similarly notorious is the so-called “glass ceiling”: women barely occupy between 12% and 18% of senior management posts in business. In March 2021 we learned that in 2020, IBEX 35 companies reached an average presence of 31.17% of women on their boards of directors, exceeding overall the recommendation of 30% marked for that year by the Spain's National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), which regulates the Spanish securities markets.
  • 4
       Equally obvious is the gap linked to time reconciliation, motherhood, and the so-called “care economy”. Reconciliation between private, work, and family life is a problem that usually holds back women’s professional careers. This gap increases with the passing of the years and motherhood appears to aggravate it: among the female population aged from 25 to 29 years, without descendants, the gender gap is at its lowest rate (14.1%), whereas in a subsequent phase, when members of this group have children, the rate rises to 17.5%. According to data from the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, coinciding with the strong socio-economic impact caused by covid-19 in the year 2020, the number of women requesting leave for childcare fell from 93% to 87.17% of the total of leave granted that year. This reduction could be one of the consequences of the strong economic crisis that followed the healthcare crisis in the country. Women, furthermore, devoted double the time that men did to nonremunerated activities, which represents 67% of nonremunerated production in Spain. If non-professional work in care were formalised, it would be equivalent to over 977,000 full-time employees per year, with an economic potential of 7,812 million euros, according to the study "Coste de oportunidad de la brecha de género en la conciliación" (Opportunity cost of the gender gap in time reconciliation) by the ClosinGap platform, spearheaded by Merck, one of the major corporations behind this platform.
  • 5
       The gender gap culminates in the highest rates of female poverty and economic vulnerability, especially among groups such as young women, immigrant women, and single-parent families. Added to this, furthermore, is the insufficient and inefficient social public expenditure aimed at families and children, as pointed out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Spain.
  • 6
       With a view to the future, the current dynamics of the masculinization and femininization of determined professions are concerning, as well as the gender gaps in education and among graduates in new technologies and in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) disciplines. Thus, for example, in the sphere of artificial intelligence and on an international scale, barely 22% of its professionals are women. With regard to another great challenge, climate change, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in its study Gender-based violence and environment linkages, alerts that it is women and girls who, potentially, will most suffer the negative effects of the climate emergency.
  • 7
       Overcoming the gap between women and men is a question of social justice, people’s dignity, and democratic quality. However, furthermore, it is key for social wellbeing and for the country’s social and economic development, given that it enables use to be made of 100% of its potential and talent. Is Spain willing to let half of the population’s talent go to waste? It is evident that this potential should not be neglected; for this reason, this report includes a range of future proposals, extracted from a debate with women experts on the subject, to contribute solutions that help to overcome this gap.
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Jordi Sevilla, Belén Santa Cruz and Diana Ortega , economists

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