“You are not Supposed to be Doing a Man’s Job” – Gender Inequality in the Spanish Work Force

As Cristina Junquera gets ready for the day, looking at her self in the mirror, a heavy sigh escapes her lips. She turns her head, looking intensely at the options of outfits laying on her bed, not sure what to wear to work. She exhales loudly and decides to go for a sober look, more precisely the less “feminine” one, which means pants, a button up shirt and a blazer on top. Taking her time, she strolls to get to her job. A profession, she used to adore, and be so passionate about but that she grew to despise. She feels that her potential is not valued. Taking a last look at herself, she said she remembers all the comments she has been hearing since she started working as a financial engineer. She recalls people telling her “You are a woman, you are not supposed to be doing a man’s job,” or other times where her bosses told her “We will give him more work as I’m sure you have personal responsibilities to take care of.”

Increasingly, women in the Spanish work force share similar sentiments. Gender inequality and discrimination are omnipresent issues within Spain. Recent studies show that Spain lacks behind in the European Union in regards to gender equality in the work force. Spain’ gender pay gap overall difference in income between women and men was at 16.7 percent in 2010 and the employment rate of women in the Spanish labor market equals 52.0 percent and therefore is below the European Union- 27 percent average (58.5%) according to Europa.

“For us women, it is extremely frustrating when we have the same qualifications as our male counterparts but they still get paid more than us” says real estate agent, 27 years old,Andrea Villanueva. “There is an evident separation between us in the work force, and the Spanish government has yet to find an effective solution,” says Villanueva.

In the wake of the economic crisis in Spain, more women had to enter the work force in order to support their families. Still, the wage gap between men and women deepened. Based on a study done by the UN in 2014, out of part-time working women in Spain, 23.4 percent have been unable to find a full-time employment as opposed to 5.9 percent of men.

“I used to be a stay at home mom but after the economic crisis in Spain, my husband’s income was just not enough anymore to cover the expenses of our family. It took me six months before I was able to find a job with decent pay,” says Maria José Garcia, a high school teacher.

Despite Spain’ many efforts to insure gender equality in the labor market, the goal is far from being met according to recent statistics. The Spanish government implemented in 2004 and later on in 2008 legislation to sustain principles of gender equality in public and private life according to a UN report. However, there are still women in Spain that are experiencing inequality in their employments, mainly due to the fact that women sense that they are not being judged on their skills but their gender.

“ It is really not fair that just because I’m a woman, I have to prove myself ten times more to my bosses than the men in my firm. In order to gain respect in my work of field I had to fight for my rights and show that I could perform as good of job if not better than any of the men,” says Yacout Mekouar, an employee in Dhamma Energy in Madrid.


Yacout Mekouar, Engineer at Dhamma Energy (Photo taken by Rabab Talal)

A predominant factor, that is one of the causes of gender inequality in the labor market in Spain is the existence of “typical” male and female fields. Numbers show that women are overrepresented in gender typical fields due to societal stereotypes as they are very often associated to domains such as teaching, humanities and arts according to Europa. On the other hand, men are linked to fields of work such as finance or politics. Thus, it appears to be an evident issue in regards to gender distribution across fields within the Spanish economy due to gender bias.

“When I told my dad that I wanted to be a nurse, he got so mad and told me that he did not raise me as a man just for me to end up doing a woman’s job,” says Juan Pedro Garozzo.

Gender inequality in the labor market can also be noticeable within hierarchical positions in companies. Based on the European Union report there has been a real improvement since 2003 in regards to women represented on corporate boards in Spain, but the percentage is still low (10%). The EU’ results indicate that the proportion of women in management positions in large companies is overall below the EU-27 level. Meaning that women are also underrepresented in economic-decision making positions in the EU-27 (36%) and Spain is an illustration of this (33%).


Joumala Sennouni, at a conference representing her firm (Photo given by Joumala)

“Personally, the company that I work for has a heterogeneous body of employee. However, I have to admit that people in higher positions are mostly men” says Joumala Sennouni, employee at an NGO.

Even though the Spanish government has established legal infrastructure to upshot gender inequality and discrimination. Those efforts are to be questioned due to the slow progression of the resolution of the problem. Today, individuals still experience discriminatory behavior in their work place.

“One day I witnessed discrimination while I was working,” says Pedro Dominguez, a taxi driver “I was parked in a taxi station and a man came up to take a taxi and when he saw that the driver was a woman, he immediately shut the door and moved to the following taxi in line, which was a man. All of us drivers were so mad and shocked by his behavior that we refused to take him in.”


Pedro Dominguez, taxi driver (Photo taken by Rabab Talal)

Pedro’s statement mirrors the findings of Europa report, which demonstrates that Spain is an example of gender “typical” field due to their lack of efficiency in distribution within the work force.

Another form of discrimination that appears through studies in European countries, including Spain is the one towards working mothers. Research done by The International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2014 has proved that the additional cost of employing a woman worker and having to cover maternity leave and childcare, cost a lot to Spanish companies. Thus, in order to save time and money companies tend to hire a man instead of a woman even if their qualifications are similar.

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Although, Spain has been in the process of inculcating infrastructure and setting up laws to support gender equality in the work force, it is still one of the European countries with the lowest average rate when it comes to women working in labor markets and boardrooms. Spain has yet to advance in that domain as the prospective of gender equality is for now uncertain.

“I personally don’t want to leave my job or my country but I’m not going to lie, I thought about it. I want to be in a country where a woman can be an engineer without being judged or referred to as doing a man’s job,” voices Cristina about her future in a company that has other female employees sharing similar sentiments. “We are in the 21st century, there is no such thing as a man or a woman’ job.”

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