Site logo

Women in Barcelona: Josie Pont

This article is written by Kristina Zlatinova.

Josie Pont, Women in Barcelona

Josie Pont

In order to investigate the current state of contemporary women in Barcelona, I recently sat down with Josie Pont, a local Catalan woman who is often described through a variety of impressive labels. She lists off the titles with which she is regularly introduced, such as ‘educator, tutor, mentor, coach, speaker’, however, Josie doesn’t want to be defined by these ‘hats’ but by the two passions which have always driven her life: education and the empowerment of women. 

 

A former professor at the University of Barcelona, she is also the founder of Female ChangeMakers and a co-founder of Working Women Barcelona.

Women in Barcelona: an interview with Josie Pont

Josie Pont, an introduction

Josie’s understanding of the past and current social position of women in different cultures was widened by her stay at San Diego State University as a visiting professor. Her interest in neuroscience and her studies in the Native American, and Women’s studies department, together with her contact with Native American Tribes led her research on how Native American women reconstructed their identity through literature and mythology. There she became more aware that regardless of the cultural differences, there were many common factors shared by all women. 

I saw that the power, strength, and capabilities of women and their potential role in nowadays society is totally different from the status that women actually hold in the world. However, to reach the status we deserve, the first problem we have to face is what implies not to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses, and many aren’t. We should know who we really are, and understand how our identity has been ‘constructed’.


The way that we construct our identities depends not only on genetics but also on our belief system. This is made of all the input we’ve received since childhood, and how circumstances have impressed a given set of feelings in us, which at the same time, trigger unconscious emotions and consequently, patterns and behaviors. We often say: ‘this is who I am, I cannot change. Or this is the truth?’. The truth is that everybody can change, and that we can only see our ‘truth’ through the tinted glasses of ‘our reality’. 


We need to understand the social constructs of our identity, what role our beliefs and filters play in our decision-making and how difficult it can be to become the leader of our own life.


Unfortunately, many women still have a lot of work ahead to change the colour of their glasses so they can discover who they really are, and who they might become. Once this is achieved, every woman can become an agent of change in our society.

Josie Pont returned to Spain as a ‘real feminist‘, per-se, and this research led her to participate in Barcelona’s very first women’s demonstration on the 8 of March, International Women’s Day.

 

I went on to ask Josie Pont an array of questions regarding the development of women’s rights, involvement, and perception in her city.

Josie Pont

Timeline women’s empowerment in Barcelona

From your perspective, what is the most important timeline to note for women’s empowerment in Barcelona?

We should go a bit backwards in history to understand where we come from. Prior to our very long dictatorship under Franco´s regime, what we had was the Second Republic from 1931 to 1939. During the civil war in 1936, the role of women in every aspect of society was extremely important. In Catalunya, these women were extremely active and became very powerful.

 

After Franco’s long dictatorship came democracy and in 1978, the Constitution of Spain. Here we see the first step of legislation towards reviving gender equality. This completely changed the panorama of women’s rights because there was a big push towards access to education, employment, and reproductive rights. It became important for women to have a good education, a place in the workforce, and later on, they had access to contraception and abortion. We were pioneers in that. These laws were not only implemented in Catalunya, but in Spain as a whole.

 

Another paramount change was the political representation of women. In Barcelona, specifically, over the last 10 years, there has been an exponential growth in female leaders, and more than 40% of local and regional representatives in state politics are women, except for the mayors which are around 30%.

 

Additionally, the awareness of gender-based violence is very widespread in Barcelona. Current political parties are claiming their feminism aloud.

 

Finally, the rise of feminist movements in Barcelona has been huge. Lots of grassroots institutions and organisations have risen and become popular here.

Barcelona versus San Diego

Have you noticed any significant differences in how women are perceived here versus other places you have lived?

Well, I have been in many different countries and in some of them, the conditions for women are dreadful. But I will focus on San Diego, where I lived the longest apart form Barcelona.

 

The big difference for me in San Diego was that women did not have the same understanding of age, work possibilities, and study possibilities that we have here. I remember seeing a lady there who came to the Women’s Studies department and said ‘I am going to do this Master’s degree because I’m thinking about changing my career.’

 

She was 60 and thinking about beginning a new career at 64. I was astonished. Here, a woman over 45 thinks she is ineligible for work if she doesn’t have a very specific professional background and lengthy experience. Even the possibility of marrying again after 60, finding a new partner at this age, was shocking to me. We need some time to change our mindset in Spain. In the U.S. you cannot put your photo on your CV either, while in Spain, they require a photo, and even ask if you are married, and so on

Josie Pont

Organisations for women in Barcelona

What are the specific organisations that you would like to highlight which have been extremely valuable to women’s support and empowerment here?

Currently, there are many, impossible to list them all here, but I think the first ones we have to mention are the governmental institutions. The government in Barcelona is actually giving immense support for the progress of women’s rights, and this has been paramount.

 

We have the Catalan Institute for Women, the Barcelona Town Hall, to empower women and help them  with not only domestic violence, but all kind of issues, and finally the Civic Centers in lots of different parts of the city, which provide workshops and courses addressed to women. We cannot forget Barcelona Activa with Lidera, with very powerful programs to help women entrepreneurs and female leaders.

 

I also personally love Bonnemaison, named after Francesca Bonnemaison, a private institution which covers lots of different fields related to women.

 

There is also 50a50 which is trying to get 50% of women in high CEO and board positions. 

 

Additionally, then there are lots of NGOs and women organisations like Barcelona Women’s Network, or Professional Women’s Network, which I belong to.

Women’s rights in Barcelona

Are there any specific initiatives or policies related to women’s rights in Barcelona that you find especially important?

As I said, Barcelona’s government and institutions are giving total support, and implementing policies to achieve gender equality and empower girls and women. I would like to mention an important national law, though. The parity law, for companies and organisations which will be implemented this year and requires that no sex has a lower weight than 40%.


This has been mandatory in our government for some time now but has not been applied in companies yet. I believe that both small enterprises and big companies still have lots of prejudices against women or they simply prefer men. Maybe just because this is how it has been since the beginning of time.

Takeaways

From the workshops or other events you’ve held, what have you seen be the best takeaway for participants?

Apart from the personal development or career achievement takeaways, I would like to highlight the empowerment and relief women feel when they exchange their stories of success and failure while trying to thrive in their entrepreneurship or leadership goals.  They understand they are going through the same challenges and facing the same inner and outer barriers.

 

Furthermore, there is a sense of community and sisterhood, and we realize collaboration is the most important tool we have if we want to succeed. It is often said that the worst enemies of women are women. However, we have to put things in historical perspective, we have to understand that there were very few women who had access to power in the past, and this was mainly because of their beauty or who they were married to. Therefore, we can easily see where this ‘envy’ or fight for power came from. 

 

In the past, beauty and reputation were the most important assets women could have, or is it somehow valid today as well? So, if one cannot compete with beauty, there is always the possibility to damage a woman’s reputation and win the battle. Have women used these ‘tools’ against their opponents? Absolutely. But again, we should understand the cultural constraints they had to endure. Things must be understood in context, applying our knowledge of history, philosophy, and religions. 

 

Fortunately, nowadays things have changed a lot. Women have understood that we have to go back to the tribal understanding of sisterhood. Our strengths can thrive better nurtured by a female community. I learned this experience, firsthand, coexisting with, and observing the Native American women on reservations. They united their strengths and common efforts to keep the values of their people and preserve the survival of their tribes.

Josie Pont

Women in Barcelona: Feminism

How would you describe the celebrations of women here and what change do they actually propel?

When I came here from the states, many years ago, and I openly declared myself a feminist, I remember all the surprised comments. Feminism was either equated with negative connotations or unnecessary. I thought that at least my university students would agree with my premises. However, I was taken aback to find out the majority believed everything had already been achieved, the laws were protecting us.  ‘Josie, we are not in the third world!’

 

But, believe it or not, now after what happened with Trump and the MeToo movement, there was an explosion of feminism. This is visible during the celebrations on the 8th of March, because there are women from all walks of life who gather under similar banners on the streets.

Some people argue that women’s rights have become equal to men’s in first-world countries, and there is actually no point in making such a large fuss about protests and empowerment. In your opinion, why is it important for women in Barcelona and around the world to still be very involved in such celebrations and organisations?

Although it’s true that according to the law, we are technically equal in rights, we still experience lots of disadvantages, stereotypes, and prejudices regarding the connotations of women and what we stand for. This will take a long time to disappear. 

 

Unfortunately, we are also suffering a huge backlash, both in the Western and developing countries. We cannot forget the thousands of years of patriarchal societies all around the world. This is impossible to eradicate easily. And power is not just given to you. Although we have achieved many goals, we cannot stop, just the opposite. We have to take into account what is going on in the world today, and how many extreme right-wing governments are becoming elected.

 

Because of all of that, I think it is very important that we do not think we have achieved everything. There are still major issues with gender violence, balancing work and family life, equal wages, and much more. 

 

Besides, apart from the famous external ‘glass ceiling’, we have to pay attention to the suppressing power of our ‘inner glass ceiling’. It doesn’t matter what women study or achieve, many of them still feel guilty for devoting too much time to their jobs and too little to their families. They feel they are not good mothers, spouses, or daughters. This is not so strange, since if for centuries we have been devoted to these roles, now, if we do not fulfil them the way we used to, we might feel we are betraying our family.

 

There is still a lot to be done.

Concluding thoughts Kristina

As one of the earliest self-proclaimed ‘feministas’ of Barcelona, before it was cool – back when the word ‘feminist’ was seen as provocative, equated to angry man-hater, or associated with a change in sexuality –  Josie Pont has watched the Catalan metropolis of Barcelona fluctuate in opinions over the past years.

 

With every change in environment, she re-affirms her belief to the world that every single woman can become an agent of change in our society.

About Female ChangeMakers by Josie Pont

Why my passion for Female ChangeMakers?

After numerous years immersed in academia, I decided to specialise in female entrepreneurship & leadership. This decision marks the culmination of my diverse experiences and my fervent commitment to empowering women. I am driven by a passion to assist women in aligning with their values, uncovering their mission, realising their vision, and assuming the role of agents of change.

 

My dedication to this project also motivated me to co-found Working Women Week & Working Women Barcelona. Their mission is to make female leadership and entrepreneurship visible while connecting powerful women and fostering alliances between them and relevant organisations committed to advancing gender equality.

Why do we need Female ChangeMakers?

In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, adaptability and resilience are paramount for success. The need for entrepreneurs and leaders extends beyond traditional soft skills to encompass conscious leadership and addressing social issues. This approach also requires embracing authenticity, cultivating mindful clarity, and commitment to influencing with integrity. And all of this is precisely what these women embody.

 

This is the essence of why I’m convinced we need female changemakers. They exemplify empathetic and transformative leadership, essential to address our complex global challenges. Empowering women to embrace the role of changemakers enables us to unlock the potential of humanity, and create a world that is more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous for all.

Can anyone be a changemaker?

I firmly believe that anyone can be a changemaker, yet true leadership and impactful change in the external world stem from mastering one’s inner world. It’s essential to uncover our authentic selves, clarify our values, and learn how to translate these insights into impactful action. And this is precisely what I help women accomplish.

 

  • Do you feel the need to instigate change in your own life or within your spheres of influence, be it family, community, workplace, or politics?
  • Do you think female leaders play a pivotal role in the making of a more egalitarian, gender-balanced and environmentally safer society?
  • Do you perceive the present moment as an opportunity and a calling for women to collaborate in shaping a brighter future for our world?
  • Do you believe anyone can be a changemaker, and that YOU, regardless of your occupation or social standing, also have the potential to become a female changemaker?

If the answer is YES, I’d love to accompany you in this challenging but passionate and transformative process!

Women in Barcelona

Organisations for women in Barcelona

Comments
  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment