A viral meme circulating in Brazil shows the female members of former President Dilma Rousseff’s Cabinet (and the former President herself) grayed out. The new President, Michel Temer, announced his Cabinet this morning. The list includes no women, drawing concerns of female political representation in Brazil.
Brazil has never been at the forefront of female representation in government. And it won’t be in the foreseeable future either.
This morning, Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, was removed from power following a Senate vote in an impeachment proceeding that lasted 20 hours. She will now be tried in the Senate on charges of fiscal irresponsibility.
The country’s new interim president, Michel Temer, wasted no time on Thursday in announcing his new cabinet. And they all have one thing in common: they are all men. Despite Brazil having 107 million women, Temer’s government will mark the first time since the 1970′s that the Brazilian cabinet features zero women.
Manoela Miklos, a blogger for the mainstream Brazilian media outlet Folha de São Paulo, told the paper that the absence of women, “has a symbolic dimension,” and it also “says a lot about what the public policies could be when led by a group of such little diversity.” She added that she believes the cabinet’s new composition could mean, “inequality is treated as natural.”
Adding onto today’s loss of Brazil first female president, the all-male Cabinet has many observer concerned about the future of Brazil’s female representation. Of Brazil’s 513 congressional representatives, only 53 are women. That places Brazil at #115 in a global ranking of female political representation. And only 10% of the representatives of the country’s Women’s Party are women.
The disparity extends beyond politics to create significant economic impact. Brazilian women make up 44% of the Brazilian workforce, according to 2013 numbers, and are higher educated on average than Brazilian men. Nevertheless, according to a World Bank report, a woman’s hour of work is still worth a fourth less than that of a man in Latin America’s biggest country.
Recently, many Brazilians expressed their distaste with a perceived shift toward a more conservative vision of women’s roles in the country when they participated in what would become a social media viral trend in the country. (Read about that trend here.)
And the women who participated in former President Rousseff’s government were not necessarily fighting for women’s rights. In fact, some of those women, like Katia Abreu, the former Minister of Agriculture, were lightning rods for feminist groups.
But Temer’s choices surprised some observers, who had imagined that he would include more women in his cabinet. Thirty years ago, he created the country’s first delegation for the defense of women’s rights. “I always imagined that, in the federal government, he would advance this issue,” Eva Blay, a retired sociology professor of the University of São Paulo, toldFolha de São Paulo. “Instead,” she added, “We have to start the fight again…It’s a delay.”
“The issue is representation. In a country with so much machismo, having women in power helps deconstruct that machismo,” lamented Kelly Tatiane Martins Quirino, a doctoral student in communications at the University of Brasilia.
“Having no women in the cabinet is a step backwards.”
First published by Forbes