Interesting developments in Europe, I

Here’s Mr Zapatero, Spanish Prime Minister, and the majority of his cabinet:

JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero poses on the steps of the Moncloa palace in Madrid with his female cabinet ministers (left to right) Science and Innovation minister Cristina Garmendia, Transport and Development minister Magdalena Alvarez, Education, Social Affairs and Sports minister Mercedes Cabrera Calvo, Defence minister Carme Chacon, deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Public Administration minister Elena Salgado, Equality minister Bibiana Aido, Housing minister Beatriz Corredor and Agriculture and Environment minister Elena Espinosa

Yes!! In the Spanish cabinet 9 out of 17 members are women. “I am not only an anti-machoist, I am a feminist,” Mr Zapatero [Prime Minister] once said. In the Independent, we hear that this has not been universally well-received:

‘the spectacle of the 37-year-old Chacon inspecting the troops on Monday morning dressed in black pants and a white tunic, and visibly pregnant, was altogether too much for the Conservative daily El Mundo, which raged against what it called “an exercise in political marketing” that offended the traditional values and culture of the Spanish army.’

Of course, depending on how one characterises these values (macho? sexist?) one might think this is a good thing. But in anycase, they’d better get used to it: the Spanish government has introduced a ‘40% rule’:

  • ‘This prohibits men or women from making up more than 60 per cent of the candidates of any political party that contests national or local elections. It also demands, but does not require, that by 2010 any company negotiating for public contracts should appoint women to 40 per cent of the places on their boards of directors.’

Other interesting structures for promoting gender equality are discussed in the article, including:

  • ‘the so-called “zipper” system [operative in Sweden], under which if there is a man at the top of the party list, the number two position must be occupied by a woman, the third by a man, and so on.’

In the UK, only 19.5% of Parliamentarians are women. Denis MacShane, Britain’s former Europe minister, commented:’ I hope Gordon Brown and his ministers can spend more time going to Spain and learning.” Indeed! 

2 thoughts on “Interesting developments in Europe, I

  1. Agreed that this is a fantastic photo! Recalling a previous blog post, I wonder how many of these ministers are naturally gray or graying (other photographs–sharper and closer–of PM Zapatero show that he’s clearly graying). Is there a the same unwritten social rule in Spain as there is in the US, that it is improper for a female politician to show gray hair?

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