The progress made by women in Spain is unstoppable. In forty years of democracy, the female presence and influence has the transformed society and today Spain is a world reference for gender equality, making it one of the best places in the world to be a woman.
According to the Women, Peace & Security Index (2017-2018) from Georgetown University and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Spain is the fifth best country in the world to be born a woman out of a total of 153 States analysed (covering 98% of the world population). With a score of 8.6 out of 10, it is only surpassed by Iceland (8.86), Norway (8,79), Switzerland (8.71) and Slovenia (8.61) and it is ahead of countries like Finland, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.
This biannual study ranks countries according to three major variables of women’s well-being: integration (economic, social, political); justice (equality laws and informal discrimination); and safety (in the home, in the community and in society) through 11 indicators. In its conclusions, the WPSI report asserts that nations are more peaceful and prosperous the more advance they are in terms of equality of rights and opportunities.
Progress in all areas of society
The progress of women in Spain is tangible in virtually all areas of society. What has been particularly important has been their integration into the employment market: whilst in 1978 only 28.1% of women worked outside the home, today more than 53% do according to data from the National Statistics’ Institute (INE).
In the political field, Spain has also managed to become, during the last forty years, a benchmark for gender equality. It is ranked first in the world in terms of women in the Government -11 out of 17 ministers, 65% – and the third in the European Union with the largest female presence in its parliament (40.6%), according to the 2018 report on Gender Equality by the European Commission (EC). And all of this when we consider that in 1978 women only accounted for 5% of the total number in Parliament.
In some areas, the presence of women has exceeded that of men: for example, there are more women than man who have graduated in higher studies (53.3% in 2016, according to Eurostat); 53.2% of those in legal career (judges and magistrates) are women; and women with PhDs make up 51.6% of the total, according to OECD data (ahead of countries like Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Norway and the United Kingdom).
The mentality of Spanish citizens has had a lot to do with this female progress. Spain, along with Canada, is the country in which the lowest percentage of the population (only 8%) believes that women should devote their time to looking after the home and the family, and not work outside the home, according to the Ipsos study Feminism and gender equality in the world, from 2017. According to this report, Spain has the lowest percentage of people who believe that the women are inferior to men, just 7%, well below other countries like the UK, France, Belgium, Germany or Sweden. We are thus one of the least sexist societies in the world.
On the cutting edge of legislation on equality
Despite the great progress being made by women and the Spanish society, legal, political and business initiatives have been and are necessary in order to keep improving. And there has been a constant drive towards achieving this.
The approval of the so-called Equality Law in 2007 was a major step forward for Spain and has become a benchmark for other countries. Transversally, it established, for the first time, prevention and correction strategies in regard to discrimination due to gender and sexual harassment, as well as positive actions both in the public area and recommendations in the private sector.
This law, besides having been very positively rated by 80% of the Spanish population according to the CIS, put Spain on the world map in terms of gender equality, receiving the recognition, inter alia, of the UN Women’s Rights Committee (UNWRC) and turned the country into a reference for the rest of the world.
In order to make an international contribution to gender equality that Spain has worked in line with UN Women (created in 2010), the UN organisation devoted to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in UNO Member States through international standards and working alongside governments and civil society in the context of Sustainable Development Objectives.
Spain has essentially shown that it is committed to working towards full gender equality. Besides the rankings, laws and statistics, we need to recall the major social mobilizations such as those that took place on International Women’s Day and on other days that have fought for women’s rights, reflecting the country’s clear commitment to equality.
- Women, Peace & Security Index (2017-2018) from Georgetown University and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.
- National Statistics’ Institute (INE).
- 2018 report on Gender Equality by the European Commission (EC).
- The Ipsos study Feminism and gender equality in the world.