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Jobs For The Girls

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May 1st 2008 | MADRID

From The Economist print edition

Spain's government wants firms to appoint more female directors

THE sight of Spain's heavily pregnant defence minister inspecting the troops in early April seemed to herald a new era of opportunity for Spanish women. Spain is the first European country ever to produce a government with more female than male ministers. JosÐ"© Luis RodrÐ"­guez Zapatero, the prime minister, has appointed nine women and eight men to his new cabinet, including Carme Chacon, Spain's first female defence minister.

Despite their sudden ascendancy in politics, however, women are still practically absent from the upper ranks of business. Spanish women make up just 4.1% of corporate boards, according to a study by the European Professional Women's Network, an lobby group, and Egon Zehnder, a recruiting agency, against an 11% average in Europe (see chart).

One reason is that fewer women make it into the workforce than in other European countries, with the exception of Italy. The gap between male and female employment rates in Spain is over 20% points, according to a study by Kevin Daly at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. Reconciling family life with work, a struggle anywhere, seems to be harder in Spain than in other countries. Spanish women spend far more time on domestic chores, including childcare, than men. The length of the working day, which is extended into the evening thanks to long lunch breaks, does not help. It is practically impossible to juggle family and work if you get home at 9pm or 10pm, says Ruth Mateos de Cabo, one of the authors of an academic paper entitled “Discrimination on Spanish Boards of Directors”.

Ms Mateos and her co-authors analysed the boards of Spain's top 1,000 companies in a bid to understand why women are so scarce.



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