Brace Fellow Presentation: Diego Mendia Explores Women in the Ecuadorian Workforce

Diego Mendia ‘11 finished off this year’s Brace Fellow presentation series with an analysis of the situation of women in the Ecuadorian workforce

Mendia said, “I decided to look into the situation of Ecuadorian women and how their society affects them because there is a large discrepancy in the Ecuadorian workforce between men and women.”

Mendia concluded that the root of this culture of “machismo” was a lack of awareness and education.

“There are clear gender divisions in what a student would choose to study, and this causes girls to go for fields that lead to more traditional roles,” he said.

Mendia identified that key factor of this problem was the growing popularity of single-sex schools.

“Single-sex high schools outnumber co-ed, and girls are usually the minority in co-ed schools. There is often a difference in the courses offered in boys and girls school and this contributes to more inequality in the workforce later on,” he said

“Thankfully, the Ecuadorian government is doing a lot to help the women and bridge the inequality gap in the country.”

Through his research, Mendia discovered the government has begun to be a proponent of gender equality in the workplace.

Their efforts to help the women in the workforce have centered on making promotional campaigns and organizing rallies across the country to push for social changes.

According to Mendia, Rafael Correa, the current president of Ecuador, has made numerous advancements on this issue.

Mendia also said that the Ecuadorian public is slowly changing their views on this issue of gender equality.

Mendia began his presentation by addressing the differences in wages and opportunities for men and women.

According to Mendia, women are typically excluded from the specter of economy in domestic and public life.

“The belief that men should be the main source of income is reinforced by the deeply rooted conception that women shouldn’t have a job of any major influence or importance because they would not be able to do it right,” said Mendia.

“Women are afraid to take many jobs because they are afraid of the humiliation and social stigma that will come with it.”

Ecuadorian men feel that they must be the head of the family, and make the households “large” decisions including those about money.

Mendia analyzed longstanding stereotypes that have permeated Ecuadorian society, including misconceptions that women are poor drivers.

“Women in Ecuador are much more criticized for their driving than men, and this is why there are almost no women drivers for taxi services,” Mendia said.

He said such perceptions have real, visible impacts. “Women are only expected to take what men call ‘soft jobs’ which are the ones without an important or dangerous position,” said Mendia.

Mendia said that researching the topic as a Brace Fellow has been a meaningful experience.

“I’m really happy about how my paper went but I think I got a little nervous during the presentation,” he said.

Reflecting on the research process, Mendia said, “The topic seemed really interesting to me, and I chose Ecuador because I knew I would be able to go there and also because I know the place very well.”

He said that his work on this topic has helped him realize the scope of the situation in Ecuador and the need to promote equality.

Hannah Finnie ’11 said, “I really enjoyed Diego’s presentation because I knew nothing about Ecuadorian education and gender inequality in that country.”

Sofía Suárez ’12 said, “I thought that the presentation was excellent because it gave a lot of personal insight as to what the situation is like in Ecuador”.