ARGENTINA: Power Still Overwhelmingly in Men's Hands

  • by Marcela Valente (buenos aires)
  • Inter Press Service

This conclusion was reached by a quantitative study, 'Sexo y poder. ¿Quién manda en Argentina?' (Sex and Power: Who Runs Argentina?), presented in Buenos Aires in May by the Latin American Justice and Gender Group (ELA).

The academic group developed a Women's Participation Index (WPI) and applied it to thousands of public and decision-making positions in over 4,000 state and private institutions and organisations.

For the purposes of the WPI, if five out of 10 decision-making posts are held by women, there is 'gender equity'; if four out of 10, their participation is 'fair', if three out of 10 it is 'poor', if two out of 10, 'critical' and one out of 10, 'highly critical.' If all the posts are held by men, there is 'absolute inequality.'

Argentina's overall WPI is 15.2 percent, or 'critical,' in spite of the president being a woman and Congress ranking among the top 12 in the world for female participation.

In other words, although women's participation is outstanding in the political sphere, in the rest of society less than two decision-making posts out of every 10 are occupied by women.

'The study puts women's leadership in context and shows that Argentine society, in broad terms, is not inclusive of women, nor does it favour their participation,' Natalia Gherardi, head of ELA, told IPS.

Gherardi said that when talking of participation, people tend to focus on Congress, where thanks to the quota law that established a minimum of 30 percent of women on electoral lists, women are well represented.

The proportion of women in both houses of Congress has climbed from just five percent in 1983 to 38 percent today. But this level of representation remains an exception in Argentine society, the ELA study notes.

'Statistics matter, and are a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for ensuring women's participation as well as an agenda directed towards meeting their demands and giving them effective rights,' it says.

Barely five of the 33 registered political parties are headed by women; there are only three women out of 17 ministers in the national government; and only 14 percent of provincial lawmakers are women.

Just one out of 24 provincial governors is a woman, and in seven provinces there are no women ministers. At the municipal government level, women have only 12.3 percent of decision-making posts.

'If we did not have the quota law, which puts upward pressure on the overall participation rate, women's presence measured by the index would be even lower,' Gherardi said.

The average female participation in important positions in the judicial branch is 21.1 percent, in spite of the fact that for years now, more women than men have been graduating from law schools.

Large companies and industry associations, trade unions and other civil society organisations where there are positions of authority that enjoy public recognition were also studied.

In civil society and trade unions, women's participation in leadership positions is only 8.1 percent, while in powerful companies they hold an even smaller proportion of such posts: 4.1 percent.

'The WPI confirms that there is a 'glass ceiling,' a set of invisible but real barriers that prevent women's access to positions of the highest authority in the labour market,' the ELA study says.

Taking trade unions on their own, only five percent are headed by women.

Gherardi said there are now more women in all the professions, because more of them are enrolling in universities, where in many cases they are in the majority. But their working life does not reflect this.

Women's careers are often broken off when they reach childbearing age, because the distribution of work inside and outside the home means that women spend more time taking care of their families than men, the report said.

In some workplaces, the hours are long and not suited to women's needs, and there is insufficient provision for daycare for children, the report says.

In museums, libraries, foundations and other cultural organisations, women occupy 44.6 percent of powerful positions, but the 201-year-old National Library has never had a woman director.

Women have 21.1 percent of the top posts in science and technology, and for the first time the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) is presided over by a woman, the study says.

In education, most teachers are women, but only 15 percent of positions of authority over national education policy are held by women.

The boards of all state communications bodies, including the state news agency, are exclusively male, and women are a minority in leadership positions in the private media.

Out of 10 national circulation newspapers, only one is headed by a woman, and radio stations have even less female participation: nine percent of AM broadcasters are headed by women, but none of the FM broadcasters are.

The study concludes that real opportunities for women's access to decision-making positions are an 'essential requirement for developing an inclusive democracy in which equality can flourish.'

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service