H.M. the Queen chairs a roundtable with six exceptional women who are breaking barriers in their fields

This morning, the roundtable entitled “Exceptional women: the value of an opportunity” has taken place in Madrid, under the chairmanship of H.M. the Queen and organized by BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF), to discuss how they are able to overcome barriers and be successful in traditionally masculine jobs or fields. Six women: artist Lita Cabellut, an Air Force commander, a player of the national rugby team, a gas fitter and businesswoman, a science degree undergraduate and a truck driver and entrepreneur served by BBVA Microfinance Foundation have been the champions of this gathering. BBVA group executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila, BBVAMF CEO Javier M. Flores and current Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, have participated as well.

“These stories inspire us to keep on working for a more inclusive and diverse society”, declared the bank’s executive chairman during his opening address, and he has described the six participants as “role models, the best examples on how valuable an opportunity is.” During the discussion, education, financial inclusion and women’s entrepreneurship and stereotypes in workplace as well as in sports usually associated with men were addressed, among other topics.

The opportunity that changed their lives

For prestigious artist Lita Cabellut, the opportunity came along with her adoptive parents: “They opened my life to the world of art, thanks to them, I discovered my passion for painting.” In the case of Guisela Martínez, from Peru, it was a microcredit that allowed her to grow with her small transport and carbon sales businesses, in a country where only 35% of women have a bank account. “BBVA Microfinance Foundation has lent me a hand when no other bank would. They not only lend me money, they also teach me how to manage it”, she said.

According to Carlos Torres Vila, “for BBVA, education is a great opportunity to improve people’s lives. And in line with our purpose to make opportunities of this new era available for all, BBVA Microfinance Foundation serves more than two million people living in vulnerable conditions; 1.2 million of them, women.”

Six exceptional women with H.M. the Queen, Minister of Economy Nadia Calviño, BBVA executive group chairman Carlos Torres Vila and BBVA Microfinance Foundation CEO Javier M. Flores

Education, pillar for progress and professional development

According to the Queen, “education is a priority from elementary to secondary schooling, and the role played by families and professors, whose efforts have to be acknowledged, is fundamental to guarantee equal opportunities.” Rosa Muñoz, native of Granada, a Geology student, has narrated that in her case, her grandmother’s support was essential: a woman who learned how to write at 65 years old. Her parents and her professors also believed in her during the moments she needed it most. Rosa, of Roma ethnicity, has proudly shared that she is the first family member to study in a university, and that even if she works to pay for her own studies, she knows that she will soon be a paleontologist, which is her dream. According to the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation, only 1% of the gypsy population in Spain goes to the university, and says that “A gypsy woman studying in a university is not something you see everyday”.

“Education is a key issue for the future of this country and the whole world”, declared the Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño. All of the participants agreed on the importance of skills and capacity training, even if one is already a professional. Commander Gómez is still currently studying, even though she is already the first female pilot of the Aspa Patrol (Air Force helicopters), and the first female commander of squad 402, (responsible for the transport of the Royal Household and the Government presidency). “I am a graduate in English Philology and I’m now studying Geography and History, aside from learning French. I’m a nerd”, assures this pioneer, who is part of the 4.8% of female pilots in the Air Force. She adds, “You have to be enthusiastic, with that, you can achieve everything.”

National rugby team player, Lourdes Alameda, says that it was precisely something she never lacked: enthusiasm. She also knows how it is to pave the road in a world traditionally occupied by men. She started practicing rhythmic gymnastics at three years old, but soon discovered other sports like tennis or badminton, until rugby captivated her. She balances studying Biology with playing for the Spanish female team: two-time champion in Europe, and one that beat the record for audience in the finals held in Madrid last March, with 9,000 people. Additionally, she trains and plays for Sanse Scrums, the San Sebastián de los Reyes rugby club. “I try to convey a message to girls and boys to fight for what they want. I decided to play rugby because it was an unknown sport for me. In other sports like rhythmic gymnastics, it seems weird if a boy is to practice it; we have to change these prejudices”, she has said.

According to UN Women, seven out of ten children consider that sports is more encouraged in boys than in girls. This situation is very similar to sectors such as plumbing and gas fitting, where women represent only 1% of the workers, according to CONAIF (National Confederation of Fluids and Installers Association), composed of 20,000 Spanish companies. “Despite being the fifth child, preceded by four brothers, I was the one who was in charge of the family plumbing when my father retired. I learned it all from him. I have never felt discriminated for being a woman, even though the only women I know in the sector are wives of installers. We have to give more visibility to what we do, so we can attract more interest”, claimed Magadela Verdú, native of Valencia, gas fitter and businesswoman.