"Women dominate Spanish cabinet," writes the BBC. "Nine of the ministers are women, and eight are men; when the Prime Minister (PM) is included, the cabinet is equally divided by gender."
Zapatero, the Prime Minister ("ZP" in Spain) is the ultimate responsible for this new cabinet. His choice is quite unique and therefore full of risks.
The appointments include a woman as a defense minister, "the youngest minister Spain ever had had." Another change in the design of the cabinet is a new ministry for "equality." This is strange because with an equal gender distribution amongst ministers, the sign sent to the public should have been enough. Such a sign was needed, because in Spain women's positions are far from favorable. But will this change (only) by such a newly designed "equal" government?
The risks are obvious. First the economy. According to many predictions, the Spanish economy will be hit hard by the economic slowdown. The current PM has won the election much because of this. There was really nothing wrong with his government. This would have been quite different if the economy hadn't offered so much success in almost any area. This will change. The construction sector is still dominating the Spanish economy and although this dominance will have to change, this measure will come probably too late. Linked to this, the PM has chosen to promote innovation by changing another fundamental governance structure: innovation and science is taken apart from education. Universities are now under the government of innovation and science and no longer part of education.
Altogether a profound set of changes showing a high ambition. And where the ambition is raised, the chance of failure and underperformance increase.
What will be the task of a minister for equality? Will it prevent conflicts or trigger them? If you would compare this to a normal organization then, equality would better be managed as a central policy from management to the various business units. A Chief Equality Officer - a central police officer - would not survive in a professional organization. Perhaps it will in Politics.
The highest of all risks is that this government will fail to deliver its political program for whatever reason. In that case, the chosen "equal configuration" will be a target for discussion and the image of the women leaders will be worse off.
© 2008 Hans Bool