Quota system

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Keeping Up With The Quota: Gender Equality in Cataluña?

Op/Ed

Historically, in many cultures women have been considered as less than men. Many people believe that women have gained full equality, but that is simply not true.

In India, women are still considered worthless if their husband dies. The contemporary film “Water” depicts what Indian woman must go through once they become a widow. Their heads are shaved, they are relegated to beggar communities and many die there as well. On the other hand, even in “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”, there is still a gender pay gap. The American Association of University Women reports that, “In 2013, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 78 percent of what men were paid”. While there is a start contrast between the gender inequality problems in these two countries, one thing is clear: women are not treated equally.

This is where the quota system comes into play in Spain. EurActive, a website dedicated to news and policy debates across Europe reports that, “In its ‘Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015’, the European Commission committed itself to supporting the promotion of gender equality in the implementation of all aspects and flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy, and also to promoting female entrepreneurship and self-employment”. But, what affect does this this have on Cataluña?

Spain has a gender equality system of its own, but some parties in Cataluña have voluntary quota systems implemented that is particularly more interesting and pertinent to the focus of this article. The Quota Project, a global database of quotas for women, has a full list of the aforementioned voluntary quota systems:

  • The Socialist Party of Catalonia has had a 40 percent quota for either sex since 2000. The party’s quota was first introduced in 1982 (12 percent) and enlarged in 1987 (15 percent), 1990 (25 percent) and 1996 (30 percent).
  • Initiative for Catalonia Greens has had a 40 percent quota for either sex (2002). The quota was first introduced in 1991 (30 percent).
  • Republican Left of Catalonia has had has a 40 percent quota for either sex (2004).

The Asociacion Espanola de Ciencia Politica y de la Administracion (AECPA) report, “Playing with different cards: Party politics, gender quotas and women’s empowerment” states that, “The other parties [in Cataluña] have only employed ‘soft’ quotas incentivized by the actions undertaken by their competitors”.

What kind of affect has this had on women representation in Catalan politics?

The AECPA’s report also states,” While unequal patterns of office distribution can be fixed through gender quotas; this ‘simple’ solution cannot automatically address the complexity of gender power relations within parties. Irrespective of parties’ commitments to gender equal representation, men still maintain power over women through a variety of informal institutions.”

It is clear that while quotas may seem like a good idea, they do not achieve the true goal of gender equality. The quotas are good for party PR and it they help enable women to get into Catalan politics. But, what is the point of having women in politics if they do not actually have any power?

Quotas are simply not good enough. There needs to be a change in people’s mindsets. And, until that change comes, women will not truly have an equal role in politics in Cataluña.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe reports, “In March, the Catalonian Parliament discussed the Equality Bill which would be the first law on gender equality passed in Catalonia.” And, on Women’s Day (March 8), the Government of Catalonia launched an awareness campaign that encourages gender equality. The message states, “You move the pieces. Catalonia for gender equality”

Only time will tell if these recent efforts will have an effect on gender equality. But, for now, it is important to remember the reality: society has a long way to go until men and women are truly equal. The AECPA report quotes a woman who summarizes gender quotas well, “We have fought and won the formal battle but not the informal one”.

For more information on gender quotas in Cataluña, please visit: http://www.aecpa.es/uploads/files/modules/congress/11/papers/635.pdf

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