MADRID—As they were sworn into office on June 7, 2018, most of the ministers of the new Spanish government didn’t recite the exact text placed in front of them. Instead of uttering the prescribed consejo de ministros, or council of ministers, almost all of the leaders pledged to keep secret the deliberations of the consejo de ministras y ministros. It was a small but significant rebellion. Seventeen ministers were being sworn in, and 11 of them were women—a record-breaking percentage for any European or North American government. So despite the fact that the Spanish language calls for the masculine form of nouns to be used in plural settings regardless of the group’s gender makeup (in this case, ministros), the new cabinet members used their swearing-in to insert the feminine form and demonstrate a push for more inclusive language.
The female ministers appointed by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez run the country’s most important departments, including labor, justice, defense, and the treasury. The deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, is also a woman. In other sectors, too, women are making strides. Last month, one of Spain’s largest daily newspapers, El País, named a female editor in chief, Soledad Gallego-Díaz, for the first time in its 42-year history. And in recent years, Ana Patricia Botín was named the head of her family’s bank (and Spain’s biggest), Santander. Still, if all three of these women happened to be in the same room as one man, the group would be referred to using the generic masculine.