In celebration of Women´s History Month and Women´s Day, we are sharing a series of profiles of Argentine women that actively work for the advancement of women, and have participated in Embassy´s exchange programs.
By Morgan Swanson
Soledad Planes is an agent for change who is shifting perceptions about gender equality, one person at a time. Activism for gender equality is not part of her job—she is Chief of Advisers to the polling analysis team that reports to Chief of Cabinet Marcos Pena—but rather an integral part of who she is as a person. We met one morning in a local coffee shop in Palermo, where Soledad arrived early to catch up on the news and organize her thoughts. By the time I arrived, she had already finished her coffee and was ready to explain her passion to me.
Soledad described gender inequality as “the elephant in the room” that Argentine society needs to address. “It’s not just about approving some law,” she posited, “it’s about changing minds.”
To this end, she has two clear objectives. First, encouraging women to continue to advance their careers, regardless of ceilings and barriers. As she explains, if her generation does not stay active in the professional world, the next will face the same obstacles all over again.
Second, Soledad wants to emphasize that a gender-equal society is a win-win for all. She has observed a counterproductive misconception that the issue is a theme only for women, and that men are “the enemy” in this fight. “If you cast the issue as women versus men, everyone loses,” she asserted. “Men should be allies because everyone benefits from a gender equal society.”
Soledad’s passion is based on personal experience in school and in her early career. Growing up in San Miguel, in Buenos Aires Province, she attended girls’ Catholic schools through high school, then earned a BA in International Relations at the Catholic University of Argentina. At her first job working in Buenos Aires City government, she saw women resigning to begin families, and noticed that those who returned tended to have less influence. Soledad began to feel disappointed that young women felt they had to choose between having a family and pursuing a career.
Soledad doesn’t seem like the type to notice a problem and not try to address it. Sure enough, while earning her Master’s degree in Marketing, Consulting and Political Communication at University of Santiago de Compostela, she wrote her thesis on opportunities and barriers holding women back from election to public office. She found the subject simultaneously fascinating and dismaying.
In Argentina, there has been a quota of 13 percent for women in congress, Soledad noted, but she has observed that the number of women elected does not usually surpass that figure, and that women do not hold many positions of power in Congress. Argentina didn’t get its first female governor until 2007, and today, only 5 of 24 provincial governors are female. In job interviews, Soledad has observed, young women are still asked if they plan to have children.
She is committed to addressing these issues one person at a time. Extreme measures aren’t always the best approach, she told me, because a strident tone may not bend ears. Instead, she would encourage women—and men, too—to speak up at work, for example, if they notice women are not being included. Keep your friends aware of the issue, and try to be an example for the next generation.
For her own part, Soledad has volunteered for a program under the Ministry of Social Development, “Ellas Hacen,” that helps women overcome adversity to finish their university studies. She also works as a postgraduate professor, and has raised the issue of inequality in academic forums.
Soledad’s work has not gone unnoticed. It earned her nomination to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2016, which she described as a “spectacular” opportunity to see economics and politics at work in the United States, and to meet other young leaders from different parts of Argentina and with wide-ranging political views. She now has friends from across the political spectrum who can connect with one another over common interests, concerns, and questions about Argentine society and politics.
For the future, Soledad hopes to continue to be an agent of change advancing women’s equality from within the public sector. With ten years of work already under her belt, she has made an excellent start and we are sure she will succeed. You “can plant the seed of an idea at ground level,” she told me, “and eventually it will grow to the top.”