Few agendas of a progressive model generate as many ramifications, mutations and contradictions as those aimed at achieving social and economic equality between the sexes.
Although some initiatives are based on relatively simple and straightforward decisions, such as establishing female quotas in corporate leadership and political candidacies or punishments for organizations that violate gender pay equality for positions with equal responsibility and performance, these cases have a limited social impact (although highly inspiring), as they affect a minority of the female universe.
It is even worth asking whether these niche advances do not perversely feed a perception of generalized improvement capable of anesthetizing the ambition for achievements in more significant fields of the egalitarian battle.
A study by the consultancy Market Analysis together with the global network of researchers WIN reveals that for just over 45% of the 33,230 respondents, in 39 countries, women still have fewer opportunities than men in their careers and jobs.
Among Latin Americans, this perception is more pronounced, reaching 53%, but if we focus attention on what women think in the largest labor market in the region, Brazil, this perception of inequality reaches a phenomenal 75%.
Something similar happens when we focus on the results of egalitarian struggles. Asked to what extent gender equity has materialized in their society, 18% of adults in the global survey say it has definitely happened to them.
In comparison, in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile, these percentages barely reach half: 9%. If we just put a magnifying glass on what women think, we don’t even reach 8%. Can we imagine concrete, large-scale progress towards equality for female majorities when the sense of disadvantage is so pervasive?
As we said, institutional advances such as quotas or sanctions for unequal treatment between genders are good because they establish a principle or rule of the game capable of ordering and inspiring other spheres, but they make us run the risk of not seeing the internal layers of large-scale conditioning of the female population that, like the matrioskas, hide the true substance of the origin of inequalities.
One of the bottlenecks of egalitarian struggles that challenge social norms that are adverse to equity (and therefore harbor an even more nuclear layer of problems) is related to the distribution of responsibilities between mothers and fathers when a new being arrives at home. Not all women with children are in the labor market and, in Latin America, less than half of those who are are protected by formal employment labor laws.
These considerations about the obstacles to gender equality were potentiated by the pandemic, which not only marginalized women from the world of work in an infinitely greater proportion than men, but also forced them to be available for the professional sphere by falling on them the unpaid care responsibilities, home maintenance and management of tasks and domestic space in homes that have suddenly become multitasking centers: schools, offices, restaurants, gyms, games and recreation room, sociability lounges.
One of the most objective and also the most ignored approaches to realizing this valorization occurs through the implementation and effective expansion of maternity and paternity leaves, the promotion and naturalization of active or responsible paternity and a redefinition of the standards of how individuals and organizations should behave in the face of to future mothers.
Recent studies confirm the maintenance of the so-called maternal penalty: almost half of the Brazilian women who took maternity leave fall into unemployment 24 months after giving birth.
Far from European parameters framed in the welfare state model and stimulated by population decline and pressure from the social security system, Latin American countries adopt short maternity leaves, mostly from 12 to 14 weeks.
Brazil, Chile and Colombia lead with around 18 weeks. Alternatives promoting gender equality such as paternal leave are not on the general population’s radar and these paternal leaves are characterized by their brevity (only 5 days).
In addition, encouraged to think of a format of shared responsibilities where fathers can spend more time with their children or expand this benefit of more time exclusively to mothers, the Market Analysis data reveals a clear intention gap, in which fathers strongly support favoring leave for mothers so that they increase their dedication, but are opposed to getting involved in supporting more ambitious father leave.
The same study reveals that it is not just about opportunism: there is a self-perception of paternal impotence in raising children that is much more pronounced among fathers than among mothers. Just as there remains a traditionalist reading of the place of women with children around family and maternal life before professional life, a view that, it should be said, is much more endorsed by men than by women.
These contexts of attitudes are a real challenge to close the gender gaps, accentuated by the arrival of motherhood. This is where the joint action of non-governmental organizations, political and state institutions (legislating or supervising the enforcement of leave) and companies (facilitating and expanding maternity and paternity leave) can make a difference, paving the way for equal opportunities and outcomes. .
As in a set of matrioskas, at the end of the most superficial layers of gender egalitarianism regarding regulated equality of wages, formal opportunities and leadership selections, we find the statuette of how much motherhood is a capital or an obstacle for a society that seeks to equalize. the sexes.
To the extent that women are forced to experience motherhood on terms that condition it as a penalty for their working life, the rest of the edifice of gender equality is built on weak pillars. The last piece of the matrioska towards crystallizing greater equality requires a consensus not only among the organized actors of society, but also an effort to bring together still tense worldviews between men and women in our region.
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