surinenglish

Sharing in the spirit of women's day

Sharing in the spirit of women's day

  • Costa del Sol business owners, workers, students and pensioners share their views on equality

Speaking to a wide range of women in Malaga and on the Costa del Sol, be they Spanish or from another country, in their 20s or their 70s, one thing they all agree on is that while attitudes towards gender equality have changed in their lifetimes, there is still a long way to go. Until there is total equality, expressions such as "glass ceiling" will still be heard and movements such as #MeToo will still be needed.

Some don't feel that they have personally been victimised for being a woman while others have had direct experience of sexist work colleagues or differences in pay. Most, however 'trivial' the incident, could add the #MeToo hashtag to an, at best uncomfortable or embarrassing, experience with a male boss or colleague, or someone they considered a friend or even family member.

Incidents that were brushed off as "banter" in the 1970s would almost definitely either not happen or end up at a tribunal nowadays, although younger women say they continue to be asked if they are married during job interviews.

For now, however, most women agree that there is still a need to raise awareness of inappropriate conduct and differences in salaries and conditions, not just on 8 March but every day of the year.

With general, local and European elections coming up in spring, this year's Women's Day events in Andalucía and the rest of Spain have gained a distinct political edge.

The rise of the far right across Europe, whose policies often include a return to traditional family roles, and the arrival of the Vox party in the Andalusian government, have prompted new slogans this year. Meanwhile the Conservative Partido Popular has said that it will not be taking part in the rallies, saying they have been "politicised" by the left.

“The government must make strict laws on equal rights”

Katie Hallybone

Katie Hallybone

Katie Alexandra Hallybone | Deputy Mayor, Macharaviaya

For 35-year-old Katie, who has lived in Spain since she was a child, the older generation in this country finds it harder to accept the idea of equality. While she does think that lot of progress has been made towards achieving greater equality between the sexes, she says there is still a lot to do. To tackle this, she says, the government “must make strict laws so that we have equal rights” and that it is “essential that more education on this subject is taught in schools”. She says we must change society “for our children’s future” so that they “don’t go through what we have gone through”.

“A boss wanted a peck on the lips”

Tricia Gabbitas.

Tricia Gabbitas.

Tricia Gabbitas | Retired

Seventy-year-old Tricia Gabbitas explains that she has been the victim of direct sexism in the workplace. When she once queried why a less qualified male colleague was earning more than her, her boss’s reply was, “Well he’s a man and he has bills to pay”. Needless to say, Tricia was “furious”. She also had a male boss in the 1970s who seemed to think it was ok to get a “peck on the lips” from one of his female colleagues. While Tricia agrees it was sexist, she says she wouldn’t describe it as assault and called it “banter” at the time. She adds, “We ladies were strong enough and wise enough to ignore it.”

“#MeToo exposes one of society’s great evils”

Pili Franco.

Pili Franco.

Pili Franco | Language student and flamenco dancer

Thirty-two-year-old Pili Franco says she believes the #MeToo movement is important to expose people who have used their power to force people to do something they shouldn’t have to in order to get a job. She says that while she doesn’t feel she has personally experienced sexism in the workplace she has questioned why, in interviews, she has been asked whether she is married, something that in theory should not be asked at any stage during a job selection process. “Iknow men who have never been asked that question and women who have been asked it a lot,”she says.

“It should be made easier for companies to hire young women”

Aprile Winterstein.

Aprile Winterstein.

Aprile Winterstein | Owner/manager, Inmobiliaria REINES

After running businesses in Malaga for 18 years, and before that in Granada, Aprile Winterstein believes that the law should be changed to prevent discrimination against young women in a recruitment process. “The state covers maternity leave but if a woman has to take time off during pregnancy, companies have to pay their salary,” she explains, something small companies, which also have to pay for a replacement, cannot afford. Aprile, originally from Canada, says that she supports the feminist movement as it was when it started and believes in equality, but that feminism in Spain has been taken to a political level that she finds hard to understand. International Women’s Day, she says, “should be a celebration of women”, not a reason to go on strike. As a professional in the real estate industry, Aprile says that women have gained visibility and are often recommended. “People now say, she’s a woman so she must be good.”

“I think every woman should be a feminist”

Patricia Welzenbach.

Patricia Welzenbach.

Patricia Welzenbach | Student

Twenty-two-year-old German Erasmus student, Patricia Welzenbach believes that more rules need to be put in place to stop inequalities before they have the chance to develop. She agrees that attitudes towards equality have changed, but we are certainly not out of the dark yet. “I think every woman should be a feminist,” she explains, adding that in order for attitudes to truly shift, an understanding of what feminism really needs to be attained. “All we want is to be given equal opportunities and rights.”

“Sexism is still very present”

Nolwenn Gaudin.

Nolwenn Gaudin.

Nolwenn Gaudin | Translator

Thirty-five-year-old French resident in Malaga, Nolwenn Gaudin, says she feels that generally, sexism is less accepted than it used to be, but she adds that “it is still very present”. She says that the #MeToo movement is a big step forward. “I hope that abusive behaviours - men principally, but some women are also guilty of this - will keep being reported and brought to justice,”she says. “It’s had an impact on society - women are not as scared to come forward and the cases are not dismissed anymore.”

More awareness, more reports of experiences like the #MeToo movement and more systematic reports of sexual assault and more education, specifically in schools and about consent are needed, Nolwenn says.

“As a fifties housewife I never felt unequal”

June Rendle.

June Rendle.

June Rendle | Actress

Born in 1930, June Rendle points out that Western women have been “liberated” for many years. “I believe that women have ensured that they are no longer treated as being ‘special’, in need of a seat on a train, of walking on the inside on a pavement,” says June, who boasts a long career on stage and TV. With regard to sexism in the workplace she adds, “It was always degrading to be expected to sit on the boss’s knee while taking dictation, but a sharp elbow in the ribs and an icy stare did not necessarily result in dismissal.” June was married at 22 and soon had two children to bring up. “As a fifties housewife I ran the house while my husband earned the money. I never felt ‘unequal’ - nor did he,” she points out.

“Women are more understanding and tolerant than men”

irina Donskaia.

irina Donskaia.

Irina Donskaia | Journalist

Originally from St Petersburg, 61-year-old Irina Donskaia believes that Women’s Day should be celebrated in a big way as it is in Russia. However after 23 years in Spain she has come to see the need for the day to represent a fight for rights and equality, rather than just a celebration of women as it is in her home country. “There’s no equality,” she says. “Salaries should be the same and more women should be in executive positions.” After all, she adds, women are “cleverer, more understanding and more tolerant”.

“A woman’s attitude is about how she presents herself”

Maddie Hjort.

Maddie Hjort.

Maddie Hjort | Owner, Sunset Andalucía Real Estate

For Maddie Hjort, 48, a woman’s attitude is all about how she presents herself. The biggest difference she sees between women in Spain and her native Denmark is that Danish women tend to just dress up for a special occasion whereas Spanish women seem to dress up every day. She says that while she has never had problems with any of her male bosses, working as a bartender in the past has brought her unwanted behaviour from male customers. Maddie doesn’t call herself a feminist, but she believes that we all have different strengths, regardless of whether we’re male or female.

“I was overbearing; he was a natural leader”

Giulia Scaffidi.

Giulia Scaffidi.

Giulia Scaffidi | Student

Originally from Italy, 20-year-old Giulia Scaffidi remembers the time she ran for school council. “Idebated against a male candidate. We were both passionate about our cause,” she explains. “Yet, I was deemed as overbearing and he, a natural leader”.