Is our economic system promoting gender inequality?

Gender equality in science, we are not there yet

Mónica Vara Pérez · 01-09-2020 10:00 · Gender equality in science Science Chronicles

According to the SHE figures, Belgium and Spain showed a low percentage of women in the highest academic position (grade A, full professorship) and they were both below the European average whereas Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Latvia were among the countries with the highest percentage of gender equality (between 40-50%) in grade A positions in academia. Why is that?

These three countries were or belonged to socialist republics after the WWII until the beginning of the 90s, when the communist era finished, and these countries began a transition towards democracy as well as a market economy. Could their socialist background have contributed to their promotion of women in STEM sciences, as an article in the Financial Times suggested?

An assay by Kristen Ghodsee and Julia Mead explores this possibility: although socialism embraces the equality of men and women as well women’s emancipation, it could be that these countries (due to the heavy population losses because of the WWII) could not afford to lose work-power in the household. However, they also comment that, with the incorporation of these countries in the market economy, many government facilities and subsidies were stopped or diminished (such as public daycare centers, maternity leave pay…), forcing a lot of women to go back to household chores.

While many more studies (and more in depth) should be conducted, this premise poses some interesting questions: What can we learn from those socialist structures? Should the governments have a much bigger role in promoting gender equality than just policy making? Should they start investing in social structures? Is it economically feasible? Should the EU provide a framework for this as well?

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This blog is supported by the Arts and Culture section of the Spanish Embassy in Belgium and by the Brussels section of the “Instituto Cervantes”, under the SciComm initiative #SPreadScience.

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