TOP
gender-inequality-in-spain-public-discussion-forums

BY ALEXA DIÉGUEZ

22 October 2020

Updated on 23 Octubre 2020

ENGLISH VERSION BY MARTA CARO

Speakers and participants in all kinds of public discussion forums are exclusively or, for the most part, men, especially in elite forums, which are often showcases for economic and political power and influence. So far this month, the examples are numerous and flagrant. Fortunately, many women and an increasing number of men are speaking out against discrimination, which is harmful for society as a whole and no longer excusable. With a few, recalcitrant exceptions, complaints are becoming frequent and are receiving more explicit support. Hopefully, they will be taken into account by more event organizers. In such turbulent times as these, the subliminal message sent by the highest echelons of society seems to want to inoculate us with the idea that thinking about the future is a man’s thing.

As I am writing this, the Forbes Summit Reinventing Spain is being held with the aim to analyse Spain’s business, political, and media landscape. Of a total of nineteen participants, only four are women. The message sent by Forbes, the world’s most famous weekly business magazine is quite obvious: that Spain will be reinvented by chiefs, managers, and visionaries —all of them men.

Unfortunately, this is the bread and butter in high-end discussion forums and business journals. The lack of gender parity is especially striking in events devoted to highly conceptual topics: Reinventing Spain, Imagining the Future of Businesses, Designing the Education of Tomorrow, and so on. The more transcendental the topic is for the economic interests of powerful people, who can influence the political and legislative agenda, the fewer the women.

The excuse for this unacceptable gender bias is that elitist events —the ones inviting prime ministers to deliver inaugural addresses, as is the case of the Forbes Summit— choose their speakers from among the CEOs of IBEX 35 corporations and the giants of the global economy, where female senior managers —with honourable exceptions— are an overwhelming minority.

No great research efforts are necessary to substantiate this. Just in October, I have found several significant examples that I will examine here. But before that, I would like to point out that “thinking about the future” has a stronger symbolic meaning in 2020, since the future will be about overcoming the crisis of epic proportions that is unfolding before our eyes. All major strategies adopted will have a profound and vital effect on society.

This clarification is not trivial, since most of the devastation caused by the pandemic has to do with the dismantling of public health and social services, the gender salary gap, and the benevolence shown towards false self-employed workers, among other issues inherited from the Great Recession.

To compensate for this, and also to avoid bias, I will provide examples of good practices later on. That said, here are some instances picked out from the press releases and calls sent into my inbox from 1 to 21 October:

 

      • Foro La Toja – Vínculo Atlántico, from 1-3 October (O Grove, Pontevedra, Galicia). 40 + 1 speakers, of which only 4 are women. It was attended by Felipe VI, whom we can consider speaker 41; the president of the Xunta de Galicia and the former prime ministers of Spain Felipe González and Mariano Rajoy, among others. Their website reads: “An essential space for dialogue between the two shores of the Atlantic. It has become a benchmark event for intellectual and academic discussion on its very first edition. An invitation to look together at the challenges that we share, the problems we have to face and the possibility of doing it together.”
      • Rethinking the Future in the New Era: the Vision of CEOs on Social Impact. A digital forum organized by Spanish business journal Expansión and Salesforce, held on 13 October with eight men and two women. It should be noted that the six invited CEOs were men, one of the two women was the host and the director of Expansión, and the other woman was also a journalist. The hiring of female journalists as conductors of these kinds of events is a fairly frequent gender-washing technique, without prejudice to the two aforementioned women.
      • Foro Sociedad Digital en España 2020, organized by Fundación Telefónica (Madrid). The lectures are divided into two blocks. The final list of speakers invited for the second one, which will be held from 3-6 November, is not yet available. The first was held from 13-15 October with 12 speakers, only two of them were women..
      • XI Encuentro del Sector Financiero, organized by Expansión (Madrid) in partnership with American Express, Microsoft and KPMG. The first day, dedicated to The Importance of the Banking Sector to Support the Real Economy, was held on 19 October with 17 participants, of which only five were women. On the second day, the main topic was Asset Management and the Insurance Business”, with 20 participants, four of them women, plus the director of Expansión, who acted as the host.
      • XIX Congreso de Directivos CEDE Spanish Confederation of Directors and Executives), held today, 21 October in Valencia, with 27 participants plus one (the closing ceremony was chaired by Felipe VI), six of which were women. The website’s home page reads as follows: “With the slogan The Time of Transformative Leadership’, Spanish leaders will be invited to dialogue and reflect on growth, employability and managerial responsibility, contributing with solutions to face the exceptional present circumstances and to empower and promote Spanish companies.”

 

Some Data and A Curious Fact

The previous list could go on, but it would be repetitive. I find it more interesting, but also quite depressing, to provide some outstanding data that may help understand the obstacles limiting women’s influence in power:

        • During the 2017-2018 academic year analysed by INE (National Institute of Statistics), women represented 66.6 percent of teachers for all ages, but with enormous differences between levels: 97.7 percent in Early Childhood Education, 41.8 percent at the university level, and only 22.5 out of 100 university professors are women.
        • According to Women in Work 2020, published by the consulting firm PwC, Spain ranks a shameful 28 out of 33 in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the index of women’s integration in the labour market. The study is based on five main indicators: salary gap, female participation, the difference in participation between men and women, female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full time.
        • According to the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (National National Stock Market Commission) the percentage of women on the boards of directors of listed companies reached 23.7% in 2019, increasing to 27.5 percent in IBEX 35 companies. However, the percentage drops to 15.9 percent at the senior managers level in of listed companies and to 15.7 percent in IBEX 35 companies.

 

These examples show that, when it comes to leadership positions, things look more like a men’s private club, generating terrible paradoxical effects. For example, the ClosinGap platform is carrying out very interesting work focusing on its founding objective, which is to analyse the economic impact on society of women lacking the same opportunities. However, since it is made up of big Spanish and international companies, their board of directors is formed by their top representatives — ten men and two women.

By contrast, on the Executive Committee, there is one man and eleven women. It would be interesting to talk whether this imbalance is appropriate since one of the main objectives today is for men to join the ranks of feminism and respect equal rights and opportunities. ClosinGap would be perfect to apply gender parity.


Linkedin as a Space for Vindication

For several years now, I have seen with astonishment the programs of conferences like the one Forbes is celebrating today; I have published posts on LinkedIn about it, expressing my discomfort to organizations sending invitations or press calls for corporate or sectorial actions with male speakers only, or with women clearly underrepresented in all of them.

In the latter case, most of the comments wield the argument of meritocracy, which fails in a context lacking equal opportunities and which usually resorts to male spokespeople, especially in sectors that are highly feminized, like healthcare, in which women are still a minority in senior management.

However, I’m witnessing an encouraging shift in the LinkedIn conversation, which suggests that more and more people are outraged at such blatant discrimination. At the beginning of October, La Toja Forum created much of a stir, with downright ill-mannered male users showing unrelenting disgust for the comments of women participating in the thread, me among them. As a cherry on the cake, I shared a post by Carla Reyes Uschinsky, president of Executivas de Galicia, and a hater showed up among my contacts whose ability to show contempt through brief, cryptic comments struck me as surprising, to say the least.

Sometime later, the review on Rethinking the Future of the New Era published on Expansión generated a much more serene debate, initiated by a post by Ana Sáenz de Miera, from the Ashoka Global Leadership Group, an interesting organization that seeks to identify and promote social innovation, who said: “And what about women? Do CEOs have no vision about the social impact of companies? It saddens me to keep seeing forums as the one Expansión has organized, and the fact that the designers and organizers of these forums are unable to predict that images like this are harmful to the organizer and those who appear in it is very surprising, all the more so knowing that the content of the news and what all these companies are doing is so important and admirable.”

Raúl Sánchez, whom I have known for many years, participated in this thread. He is currently in the management team of Las Rozas Innova and was one of the co-organizers of the TEDxFunciona Countdown event, held on 15 October in Madrid as part of the launch of the global TED initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. In this case, there were as many men as there were women. A lack of representation of women would not have been understood. “It’s something that comes naturally to us, but we’re always alert, nonetheless. It’s a proactive attitude. In my case, acting rather than being mere spectators is something that runs in the family. Back in the 1920s, my grandmother used to dress as a man so she could study Law, and Boti García Rodrigo, the current general director of Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights in the Ministry of Equality, is my cousin. We carry it in our blood.”

Regarding Expansión’s grave, yet frequent gaffe —and quite striking coming from one of the few news outlets in Spain directed by a woman—, Raúl commented: “Please, let’s take sides and act, both men and women, so that this won’t happen again. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Advocating for gender equality is key. Men are often responsible for choosing speakers, and whenever I’ve questioned them about it, the answer on many occasions was that they hadn’t realized about it. But then the makeup of the panel changes. I won’t shut up and, for a long time now, I’ve only participated in events in which there are also women.”

 

Expert Voices

Probably, the best medicine against this kind of oversights is to point our fingers at those who intend to sell new events to us in which only men have a say about the outlook of our future. Fortunately, things are changing. Also in October, I read with admiration the interview the Laboratorio de Periodismo de la Fundación Luca de Tena (Journalism Laboratory of the Luca de Tena Foundation) made to Isabela Ponce, co-founder and editorial director of GK, a native digital medium from Ecuador specializing in human rights, transparency, and the environment. Isabella talked about Voces Expertas, a recently launched Latin American board bringing together 400 female specialists in different fields of knowledge. Journalists and the media can freely access this guide to diversify their sources, thus empowering Latin American professionals and making them more visible.

Voces Expertas is inspired by a French guide founded in 2012. Tired of hearing there were no female spokespeople, French journalist and writer Marie-Françoise Colombani and Afghan writer and activist Chékéba Hachemi published in paper copy the first Expert Guide. In 2015, with the support of French public radio and television, it was published online under the name of Expertes. In 2017, it launched a French version, followed up by Tunisian and Algerian versions in 2018.

In the Expertes’ homepage, there is a headline that is very difficult to improve: Les expertes existent. Elles sont ici (Experts exist. They are here). On the page explaining the projects, you can read: “Since only 19 percent of experts invited to the media are women, the Experts project offers a unique database of women researchers, business leaders, chairpersons and directors of the institution.”

Experts and Voces Expertas are very important. And although quotas are not an optimal solution, I think they are much needed. Especially because decision-makers, journalists looking for sources and people organizing lectures have not yet imposed moral quotas on themselves. And this is sheer sexism. In order to combat it, all efforts count. Let’s not forget that ethical advances usually occur when society begins to consider that something is unacceptable and, eventually, rejects it.

*

seleccion-ponentes-masculinos-imagen-mensaje-subliminal

A Subliminal Message: The Future is a Men’s Thing

BY ALEXA DIÉGUEZ / 22 October 2020 / Updated on 23 October 2020 / ENGLISH VERSION BY MARTA CARO

Speakers and participants in all kinds of public discussion forums are exclusively or, for the most part, men, especially in elite forums, which are often showcases for economic and political power and influence. So far this month, the examples are numerous and flagrant. Fortunately, many women and an increasing number of men are speaking out against discrimination, which is harmful for society as a whole and no longer excusable. With a few, recalcitrant exceptions, complaints are becoming frequent and are receiving more explicit support. Hopefully, they will be taken into account by more event organizers. In such turbulent times as these, the subliminal message sent by the highest echelons of society seems to want to inoculate us with the idea that thinking about the future is a man’s thing.

As I am writing this, the Forbes Summit Reinventing Spain is being held with the aim to analyse Spain’s business, political, and media landscape. Of a total of nineteen participants, only four are women. The message sent by Forbes, the world’s most famous weekly business magazine is quite obvious: that Spain will be reinvented by chiefs, managers, and visionaries —all of them men.

Unfortunately, this is the bread and butter in high-end discussion forums and business journals. The lack of gender parity is especially striking in events devoted to highly conceptual topics: Reinventing Spain, Imagining the Future of Businesses, Designing the Education of Tomorrow, and so on. The more transcendental the topic is for the economic interests of powerful people, who can influence the political and legislative agenda, the fewer the women.

The excuse for this unacceptable gender bias is that elitist events —the ones inviting prime ministers to deliver inaugural addresses, as is the case of the Forbes Summit— choose their speakers from among the CEOs of IBEX 35 corporations and the giants of the global economy, where female senior managers —with honourable exceptions— are an overwhelming minority.

No great research efforts are necessary to substantiate this. Just in October, I have found several significant examples that I will examine here. But before that, I would like to point out that “thinking about the future” has a stronger symbolic meaning in 2020, since the future will be about overcoming the crisis of epic proportions that is unfolding before our eyes. All major strategies adopted will have a profound and vital effect on society.

This clarification is not trivial, since most of the devastation caused by the pandemic has to do with the dismantling of public health and social services, the gender salary gap, and the benevolence shown towards false self-employed workers, among other issues inherited from the Great Recession.

To compensate for this, and also to avoid bias, I will provide examples of good practices later on. That said, here are some instances picked out from the press releases and calls sent into my inbox from 1 to 21 October:

 

      • Foro La Toja – Vínculo Atlántico, from 1-3 October (O Grove, Pontevedra, Galicia). 40 + 1 speakers, of which only 4 are women. It was attended by Felipe VI, whom we can consider speaker 41; the president of the Xunta de Galicia and the former prime ministers of Spain Felipe González and Mariano Rajoy, among others. Their website reads: “An essential space for dialogue between the two shores of the Atlantic. It has become a benchmark event for intellectual and academic discussion on its very first edition. An invitation to look together at the challenges that we share, the problems we have to face and the possibility of doing it together.”
      • Rethinking the Future in the New Era: the Vision of CEOs on Social Impact. A digital forum organized by Spanish business journal Expansión and Salesforce, held on 13 October with eight men and two women. It should be noted that the six invited CEOs were men, one of the two women was the host and the director of Expansión, and the other woman was also a journalist. The hiring of female journalists as conductors of these kinds of events is a fairly frequent gender-washing technique, without prejudice to the two aforementioned women.
      • Foro Sociedad Digital en España 2020, organized by Fundación Telefónica (Madrid). The lectures are divided into two blocks. The final list of speakers invited for the second one, which will be held from 3-6 November, is not yet available. The first was held from 13-15 October with 12 speakers, only two of them were women..
      • XI Encuentro del Sector Financiero, organized by Expansión (Madrid) in partnership with American Express, Microsoft and KPMG. The first day, dedicated to The Importance of the Banking Sector to Support the Real Economy, was held on 19 October with 17 participants, of which only five were women. On the second day, the main topic was Asset Management and the Insurance Business”, with 20 participants, four of them women, plus the director of Expansión, who acted as the host.
      • XIX Congreso de Directivos CEDE Spanish Confederation of Directors and Executives), held today, 21 October in Valencia, with 27 participants plus one (the closing ceremony was chaired by Felipe VI), six of which were women. The website’s home page reads as follows: “With the slogan The Time of Transformative Leadership’, Spanish leaders will be invited to dialogue and reflect on growth, employability and managerial responsibility, contributing with solutions to face the exceptional present circumstances and to empower and promote Spanish companies.”

 

Some Data and A Curious Fact

The previous list could go on, but it would be repetitive. I find it more interesting, but also quite depressing, to provide some outstanding data that may help understand the obstacles limiting women’s influence in power:

        • During the 2017-2018 academic year analysed by INE (National Institute of Statistics), women represented 66.6 percent of teachers for all ages, but with enormous differences between levels: 97.7 percent in Early Childhood Education, 41.8 percent at the university level, and only 22.5 out of 100 university professors are women.
        • According to Women in Work 2020, published by the consulting firm PwC, Spain ranks a shameful 28 out of 33 in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the index of women’s integration in the labour market. The study is based on five main indicators: salary gap, female participation, the difference in participation between men and women, female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full time.
        • According to the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (National National Stock Market Commission) the percentage of women on the boards of directors of listed companies reached 23.7% in 2019, increasing to 27.5 percent in IBEX 35 companies. However, the percentage drops to 15.9 percent at the senior managers level in of listed companies and to 15.7 percent in IBEX 35 companies.

 

These examples show that, when it comes to leadership positions, things look more like a men’s private club, generating terrible paradoxical effects. For example, the ClosinGap platform is carrying out very interesting work focusing on its founding objective, which is to analyse the economic impact on society of women lacking the same opportunities. However, since it is made up of big Spanish and international companies, their board of directors is formed by their top representatives — ten men and two women.

By contrast, on the Executive Committee, there is one man and eleven women. It would be interesting to talk whether this imbalance is appropriate since one of the main objectives today is for men to join the ranks of feminism and respect equal rights and opportunities. ClosinGap would be perfect to apply gender parity.


Linkedin as a Space for Vindication

For several years now, I have seen with astonishment the programs of conferences like the one Forbes is celebrating today; I have published posts on LinkedIn about it, expressing my discomfort to organizations sending invitations or press calls for corporate or sectorial actions with male speakers only, or with women clearly underrepresented in all of them.

In the latter case, most of the comments wield the argument of meritocracy, which fails in a context lacking equal opportunities and which usually resorts to male spokespeople, especially in sectors that are highly feminized, like healthcare, in which women are still a minority in senior management.

However, I’m witnessing an encouraging shift in the LinkedIn conversation, which suggests that more and more people are outraged at such blatant discrimination. At the beginning of October, La Toja Forum created much of a stir, with downright ill-mannered male users showing unrelenting disgust for the comments of women participating in the thread, me among them. As a cherry on the cake, I shared a post by Carla Reyes Uschinsky, president of Executivas de Galicia, and a hater showed up among my contacts whose ability to show contempt through brief, cryptic comments struck me as surprising, to say the least.

Sometime later, the review on Rethinking the Future of the New Era published on Expansión generated a much more serene debate, initiated by a post by Ana Sáenz de Miera, from the Ashoka Global Leadership Group, an interesting organization that seeks to identify and promote social innovation, who said: “And what about women? Do CEOs have no vision about the social impact of companies? It saddens me to keep seeing forums as the one Expansión has organized, and the fact that the designers and organizers of these forums are unable to predict that images like this are harmful to the organizer and those who appear in it is very surprising, all the more so knowing that the content of the news and what all these companies are doing is so important and admirable.”

Raúl Sánchez, whom I have known for many years, participated in this thread. He is currently in the management team of Las Rozas Innova and was one of the co-organizers of the TEDxFunciona Countdown event, held on 15 October in Madrid as part of the launch of the global TED initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. In this case, there were as many men as there were women. A lack of representation of women would not have been understood. “It’s something that comes naturally to us, but we’re always alert, nonetheless. It’s a proactive attitude. In my case, acting rather than being mere spectators is something that runs in the family. Back in the 1920s, my grandmother used to dress as a man so she could study Law, and Boti García Rodrigo, the current general director of Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights in the Ministry of Equality, is my cousin. We carry it in our blood.”

Regarding Expansión’s grave, yet frequent gaffe —and quite striking coming from one of the few news outlets in Spain directed by a woman—, Raúl commented: “Please, let’s take sides and act, both men and women, so that this won’t happen again. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Advocating for gender equality is key. Men are often responsible for choosing speakers, and whenever I’ve questioned them about it, the answer on many occasions was that they hadn’t realized about it. But then the makeup of the panel changes. I won’t shut up and, for a long time now, I’ve only participated in events in which there are also women.”

 

Expert Voices

Probably, the best medicine against this kind of oversights is to point our fingers at those who intend to sell new events to us in which only men have a say about the outlook of our future. Fortunately, things are changing. Also in October, I read with admiration the interview the Laboratorio de Periodismo de la Fundación Luca de Tena (Journalism Laboratory of the Luca de Tena Foundation) made to Isabela Ponce, co-founder and editorial director of GK, a native digital medium from Ecuador specializing in human rights, transparency, and the environment. Isabella talked about Voces Expertas, a recently launched Latin American board bringing together 400 female specialists in different fields of knowledge. Journalists and the media can freely access this guide to diversify their sources, thus empowering Latin American professionals and making them more visible.

Voces Expertas is inspired by a French guide founded in 2012. Tired of hearing there were no female spokespeople, French journalist and writer Marie-Françoise Colombani and Afghan writer and activist Chékéba Hachemi published in paper copy the first Expert Guide. In 2015, with the support of French public radio and television, it was published online under the name of Expertes. In 2017, it launched a French version, followed up by Tunisian and Algerian versions in 2018.

In the Expertes’ homepage, there is a headline that is very difficult to improve: Les expertes existent. Elles sont ici (Experts exist. They are here). On the page explaining the projects, you can read: “Since only 19 percent of experts invited to the media are women, the Experts project offers a unique database of women researchers, business leaders, chairpersons and directors of the institution.”

Experts and Voces Expertas are very important. And although quotas are not an optimal solution, I think they are much needed. Especially because decision-makers, journalists looking for sources and people organizing lectures have not yet imposed moral quotas on themselves. And this is sheer sexism. In order to combat it, all efforts count. Let’s not forget that ethical advances usually occur when society begins to consider that something is unacceptable and, eventually, rejects it.

*

desigualdad-de-genero-españa-ponentes-foros-debates

A Sublimimal Message: The Future is a Men’s Thing

BY ALEXA DIÉGUEZ / 22 October 2020 / Updated on 23 October 2020 / ENGLISH VERSION BY MARTA CARO

Speakers and participants in all kinds of public discussion forums are exclusively or, for the most part, men, especially in elite forums, which are often showcases for economic and political power and influence. So far this month, the examples are numerous and flagrant. Fortunately, many women and an increasing number of men are speaking out against discrimination, which is harmful for society as a whole and no longer excusable. With a few, recalcitrant exceptions, complaints are becoming frequent and are receiving more explicit support. Hopefully, they will be taken into account by more event organizers. In such turbulent times as these, the subliminal message sent by the highest echelons of society seems to want to inoculate us with the idea that thinking about the future is a man’s thing.

As I am writing this, the Forbes Summit Reinventing Spain is being held with the aim to analyse Spain’s business, political, and media landscape. Of a total of nineteen participants, only four are women. The message sent by Forbes, the world’s most famous weekly business magazine is quite obvious: that Spain will be reinvented by chiefs, managers, and visionaries —all of them men.

Unfortunately, this is the bread and butter in high-end discussion forums and business journals. The lack of gender parity is especially striking in events devoted to highly conceptual topics: Reinventing Spain, Imagining the Future of Businesses, Designing the Education of Tomorrow, and so on. The more transcendental the topic is for the economic interests of powerful people, who can influence the political and legislative agenda, the fewer the women.

The excuse for this unacceptable gender bias is that elitist events —the ones inviting prime ministers to deliver inaugural addresses, as is the case of the Forbes Summit— choose their speakers from among the CEOs of IBEX 35 corporations and the giants of the global economy, where female senior managers —with honourable exceptions— are an overwhelming minority.

No great research efforts are necessary to substantiate this. Just in October, I have found several significant examples that I will examine here. But before that, I would like to point out that “thinking about the future” has a stronger symbolic meaning in 2020, since the future will be about overcoming the crisis of epic proportions that is unfolding before our eyes. All major strategies adopted will have a profound and vital effect on society.

This clarification is not trivial, since most of the devastation caused by the pandemic has to do with the dismantling of public health and social services, the gender salary gap, and the benevolence shown towards false self-employed workers, among other issues inherited from the Great Recession.

To compensate for this, and also to avoid bias, I will provide examples of good practices later on. That said, here are some instances picked out from the press releases and calls sent into my inbox from 1 to 21 October:

 

      • Foro La Toja – Vínculo Atlántico, from 1-3 October (O Grove, Pontevedra, Galicia). 40 + 1 speakers, of which only 4 are women. It was attended by Felipe VI, whom we can consider speaker 41; the president of the Xunta de Galicia and the former prime ministers of Spain Felipe González and Mariano Rajoy, among others. Their website reads: “An essential space for dialogue between the two shores of the Atlantic. It has become a benchmark event for intellectual and academic discussion on its very first edition. An invitation to look together at the challenges that we share, the problems we have to face and the possibility of doing it together.”
      • Rethinking the Future in the New Era: the Vision of CEOs on Social Impact. A digital forum organized by Spanish business journal Expansión and Salesforce, held on 13 October with eight men and two women. It should be noted that the six invited CEOs were men, one of the two women was the host and the director of Expansión, and the other woman was also a journalist. The hiring of female journalists as conductors of these kinds of events is a fairly frequent gender-washing technique, without prejudice to the two aforementioned women.
      • Foro Sociedad Digital en España 2020, organized by Fundación Telefónica (Madrid). The lectures are divided into two blocks. The final list of speakers invited for the second one, which will be held from 3-6 November, is not yet available. The first was held from 13-15 October with 12 speakers, only two of them were women..
      • XI Encuentro del Sector Financiero, organized by Expansión (Madrid) in partnership with American Express, Microsoft and KPMG. The first day, dedicated to The Importance of the Banking Sector to Support the Real Economy, was held on 19 October with 17 participants, of which only five were women. On the second day, the main topic was Asset Management and the Insurance Business”, with 20 participants, four of them women, plus the director of Expansión, who acted as the host.
      • XIX Congreso de Directivos CEDE Spanish Confederation of Directors and Executives), held today, 21 October in Valencia, with 27 participants plus one (the closing ceremony was chaired by Felipe VI), six of which were women. The website’s home page reads as follows: “With the slogan The Time of Transformative Leadership’, Spanish leaders will be invited to dialogue and reflect on growth, employability and managerial responsibility, contributing with solutions to face the exceptional present circumstances and to empower and promote Spanish companies.”

 

Some Data and A Curious Fact

The previous list could go on, but it would be repetitive. I find it more interesting, but also quite depressing, to provide some outstanding data that may help understand the obstacles limiting women’s influence in power:

        • During the 2017-2018 academic year analysed by INE (National Institute of Statistics), women represented 66.6 percent of teachers for all ages, but with enormous differences between levels: 97.7 percent in Early Childhood Education, 41.8 percent at the university level, and only 22.5 out of 100 university professors are women.
        • According to Women in Work 2020, published by the consulting firm PwC, Spain ranks a shameful 28 out of 33 in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the index of women’s integration in the labour market. The study is based on five main indicators: salary gap, female participation, the difference in participation between men and women, female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full time.
        • According to the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (National National Stock Market Commission) the percentage of women on the boards of directors of listed companies reached 23.7% in 2019, increasing to 27.5 percent in IBEX 35 companies. However, the percentage drops to 15.9 percent at the senior managers level in of listed companies and to 15.7 percent in IBEX 35 companies.

 

These examples show that, when it comes to leadership positions, things look more like a men’s private club, generating terrible paradoxical effects. For example, the ClosinGap platform is carrying out very interesting work focusing on its founding objective, which is to analyse the economic impact on society of women lacking the same opportunities. However, since it is made up of big Spanish and international companies, their board of directors is formed by their top representatives — ten men and two women.

By contrast, on the Executive Committee, there is one man and eleven women. It would be interesting to talk whether this imbalance is appropriate since one of the main objectives today is for men to join the ranks of feminism and respect equal rights and opportunities. ClosinGap would be perfect to apply gender parity.


Linkedin as a Space for Vindication

For several years now, I have seen with astonishment the programs of conferences like the one Forbes is celebrating today; I have published posts on LinkedIn about it, expressing my discomfort to organizations sending invitations or press calls for corporate or sectorial actions with male speakers only, or with women clearly underrepresented in all of them.

In the latter case, most of the comments wield the argument of meritocracy, which fails in a context lacking equal opportunities and which usually resorts to male spokespeople, especially in sectors that are highly feminized, like healthcare, in which women are still a minority in senior management.

However, I’m witnessing an encouraging shift in the LinkedIn conversation, which suggests that more and more people are outraged at such blatant discrimination. At the beginning of October, La Toja Forum created much of a stir, with downright ill-mannered male users showing unrelenting disgust for the comments of women participating in the thread, me among them. As a cherry on the cake, I shared a post by Carla Reyes Uschinsky, president of Executivas de Galicia, and a hater showed up among my contacts whose ability to show contempt through brief, cryptic comments struck me as surprising, to say the least.

Sometime later, the review on Rethinking the Future of the New Era published on Expansión generated a much more serene debate, initiated by a post by Ana Sáenz de Miera, from the Ashoka Global Leadership Group, an interesting organization that seeks to identify and promote social innovation, who said: “And what about women? Do CEOs have no vision about the social impact of companies? It saddens me to keep seeing forums as the one Expansión has organized, and the fact that the designers and organizers of these forums are unable to predict that images like this are harmful to the organizer and those who appear in it is very surprising, all the more so knowing that the content of the news and what all these companies are doing is so important and admirable.”

Raúl Sánchez, whom I have known for many years, participated in this thread. He is currently in the management team of Las Rozas Innova and was one of the co-organizers of the TEDxFunciona Countdown event, held on 15 October in Madrid as part of the launch of the global TED initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. In this case, there were as many men as there were women. A lack of representation of women would not have been understood. “It’s something that comes naturally to us, but we’re always alert, nonetheless. It’s a proactive attitude. In my case, acting rather than being mere spectators is something that runs in the family. Back in the 1920s, my grandmother used to dress as a man so she could study Law, and Boti García Rodrigo, the current general director of Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights in the Ministry of Equality, is my cousin. We carry it in our blood.”

Regarding Expansión’s grave, yet frequent gaffe —and quite striking coming from one of the few news outlets in Spain directed by a woman—, Raúl commented: “Please, let’s take sides and act, both men and women, so that this won’t happen again. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Advocating for gender equality is key. Men are often responsible for choosing speakers, and whenever I’ve questioned them about it, the answer on many occasions was that they hadn’t realized about it. But then the makeup of the panel changes. I won’t shut up and, for a long time now, I’ve only participated in events in which there are also women.”

 

Expert Voices

Probably, the best medicine against this kind of oversights is to point our fingers at those who intend to sell new events to us in which only men have a say about the outlook of our future. Fortunately, things are changing. Also in October, I read with admiration the interview the Laboratorio de Periodismo de la Fundación Luca de Tena (Journalism Laboratory of the Luca de Tena Foundation) made to Isabela Ponce, co-founder and editorial director of GK, a native digital medium from Ecuador specializing in human rights, transparency, and the environment. Isabella talked about Voces Expertas, a recently launched Latin American board bringing together 400 female specialists in different fields of knowledge. Journalists and the media can freely access this guide to diversify their sources, thus empowering Latin American professionals and making them more visible.

Voces Expertas is inspired by a French guide founded in 2012. Tired of hearing there were no female spokespeople, French journalist and writer Marie-Françoise Colombani and Afghan writer and activist Chékéba Hachemi published in paper copy the first Expert Guide. In 2015, with the support of French public radio and television, it was published online under the name of Expertes. In 2017, it launched a French version, followed up by Tunisian and Algerian versions in 2018.

In the Expertes’ homepage, there is a headline that is very difficult to improve: Les expertes existent. Elles sont ici (Experts exist. They are here). On the page explaining the projects, you can read: “Since only 19 percent of experts invited to the media are women, the Experts project offers a unique database of women researchers, business leaders, chairpersons and directors of the institution.”

Experts and Voces Expertas are very important. And although quotas are not an optimal solution, I think they are much needed. Especially because decision-makers, journalists looking for sources and people organizing lectures have not yet imposed moral quotas on themselves. And this is sheer sexism. In order to combat it, all efforts count. Let’s not forget that ethical advances usually occur when society begins to consider that something is unacceptable and, eventually, rejects it.

*