The Right to Fly Without Glass and Bars / Dora Leonor Mesa

A woman watch repairer in Havana

Looking at a country, any analysis of the relative participation of men and women in the economy and politics, is going to show a masculine domination (Global Gender Gap Report 2010). In recent years the role of Cuban women has been increased to some extent in the political and economic sphere, but this evidence is contradicted by the usual practice of the Cuban Government in reserving for men the most important ministries: Defense, Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior.

The active presence of Cuban women in all fields offers quantitative data of the reality of the country, but this relationship is not proportional to the quality of their positions. The Federation of Cuban Women (a pro-government organization) details in its national report on the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile, November 2011) that approximately 30% of ministers and deputy ministers are women, this figure reaches 40% in the State Council. In 50 years (2009) only one of them has reached Deputy Prime Minister. In the Ministry of Public Health, of all physicians, 58% are women and 46% of people in leadership positions are the same sex, but none have been able to ascend to the highest office of the institution.

It is also advisable to consider the appointment of women, in and of itself, hardly representative of the general situation of the women in Cuban society. Often, when the Cuban professionals are named as top executives, on many occasions they take the leadership under crisis conditions, where the chances of failure are greater, a reality found in other countries (Ryan and Haslam, 2008).

I don’t know if Cuban sociologists have studied the issue but one could offer as an example the current Minister of Education, who received the portfolio of the Ministry at a time when the institution is experiencing a serious crisis, unprecedented in history.

The current comptroller and vice president (2009), another interesting appointment, was appointed to the office at a time when Cuba has a high rate of corruption as reported by the non-governmental agency Transparency International.

In the form of working in the private sector, known in Cuba as “for oneself,” at the end of June 2011, of 325,947 total licenses held under the Departments of Labor and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, only 27% were held by women.The report does not clarify what percentage of that figure relates to business owners and which to female employees.

There are positive aspects about gender relations in Cuba, although it is seen as “too optimistic” in ranking 24 worldwide, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, 2010, above countries like Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Portugal and Austria.

It is recognized that Cuban women as mothers occupy an important place in society, where her judgment is respected at the social and family level. Maternity Law and the Family Code reinforce this situation.

This is observed more frequently and in greater proportion in classes with higher educational levels, a favorable change in couples where men are very involved with the care of children, publicly showing stereotypes considered “maternal “including sharing housework equally. However, Cuban sociologists report that the economic dependence of women on men has increased.

Unlike what happens in many countries, in Cuba women receive equal pay with men for similar jobs. However, the reality is that the most prominent positions and better paying ones are occupied mostly by men. Various examples and statistics are available on the Internet that support this view. Cuban women are 72% of the workforce in the education sector and 70% in the health sector (National Report FMC, 2011), both sectors among those with the worst pay and poor working conditions.

We thank those who think that “Cuban women have come a long way.” A paradox in a country where preparing a daily meal is a challenge and travel abroad, without conditions, a dream. Being a woman also means to aspire to, with full rights, the highest spheres of the economy and politics of the nation and yet that conduct creates serious conflicts and suspicions. In short, it remains “much ado about nothing.”

February 23 2012