On Saturday, Spain's prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero took office for his second term. Nothing altogether remarkable there, but today was a different story. Zapatero's chosen cabinet was sworn in this morning, and of the 17 who took their positions at the highest rank of Spanish government, nine of them were women. You heard me right, folks: More than half of Spain's highest governing body is female—a first for any European nation.
This state of affairs seems even more remarkable to me than the idea of a female prime minister or president. What Zapatero has done is send a message that as long as men and women make up half of a country's population, women should have a fair shake as far as representing and governing their people. I find it particularly awesome that Zapatero selected 37-year-old Carme Chacón, a Catalan who happens to be seven months pregnant (that's her in the picture), as Spain's defense minister! Can you imagine any woman being picked over guys like Cheney, Rummy, and Gates to kick butt in overseas warfare? Even Hillary Clinton wouldn't dream of it. So we must now pull a David Byrne and ask ourselves, "Well, how did we get here?"
In the good old U.S. of A., we've been patting ourselves on the back of late, thinking we're doing better. And the truth is that we are: The 2006 midterm elections put more women into positions of power in Washington—including Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House—than ever before. But the tiny incremental steps we're making as far as actual representation seem laughable compared to other developed nations. Here are some interesting stats (source: Emily's List):
- America Ranks 66th in the world for female representation. Some countries with a higher percentage of women legislators than the United States include: Rwanda (6), Cuba (7), Germany (15), Afghanistan (22) and Mexico (28).
- Out of the country’s 3,000 municipalities, only 16% contain a woman mayor.
- For elected statewide executive positions, 25.6% are women, including only 8 governors.
- Women hold 22.6% of state legislature offices.
- The federal level has the worst track record with only 14 Senators and 67 Representatives (15.1%).
- Of the nearly 600 people who have served in the President’s cabinet or as cabinet-level officers, only 29 (approximately 5%) have been women.
Here's hoping American voters will start caring about stuff like this and realize that having women in positions of power really does make a difference. No one's asking for more than a fair share, but it's only right that, like in Spain, a democracy's government reflects its population. There's absolutely nothing more democratic than that. &infin