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Culture and Society: Women in Business

General View

Traditional Spanish society restricted women from working outside the home and held women solely responsible for family care and domestic chores. Since its transition to democracy, however, Spain has experienced a noticeable transformation in the role and perception of women, especially in business and the professions. Women’s participation rate in Spain’s labor force has increased steadily, and women now comprise one-third of all entrepreneurs and about half the overall workforce.

In spite of the number of women working in the public and private service sector and owning small enterprises, the majority of senior management positions in Spain remain occupied by men. Men, in general, still earn substantially more than women. High unemployment rates, the lack of part-time jobs, and gender disparity in the workplace also inhibit women’s overall representation in the economy.

Legal Rights

The Spanish Constitution guarantees women and men equal rights in all areas of life. Spain gave women the right to vote and to run for office in 1931. Women can also legally own and run a business and inherit property.

The law assures equal pay for equal work to all citizens, but, on average, Spanish women earn about 20 percent less than men for the same work.

Women in Professions

In Spain, there are no jobs considered traditional for women, but they have a significant presence in education (as professors and librarians), journalism, healthcare (as nurses), public administration, and social services. Women make up about half of all professional and technical workers and nearly a third of administrators and managers. They are also entering male-dominated professions, such as engineering and finance. However, women hold less than 20 percent of senior management and decision-making positions in Spain, and these are mostly in family-owned businesses.

Legislation does not prohibit women from entering any profession. However, many employers hesitate to hire young married women because of the obligations to provide maternity leave and other benefits.

Generally, Spanish women dress fashionably in suits or business dresses and avoid wearing shorts in public.

Mothers are the primary care providers for their children. Working women usually get help from relatives, friends, or neighbors or use local childcare centers to take care of their children during work hours. The number of public daycare centers remains inadequate, while the private ones charge heavy fee.

Women as Business Owners

About a third of Spain’s entrepreneurs are women. Most of them either come from lower-income groups or run their family businesses. Most women entrepreneurs own small-scale businesses in the service sector, including banking and financial services.