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Women on Boards - 2nd Progress Report - Country in Focus SPAIN

What is this report about?

As part of the European Women’s Lobby’s Beijing+20 focus month on ‘Women in Decision-Making’, February sees the launch of the EWL’s latest report on women on boards, entitled ‘Women on Boards in Europe: Second Progress Report. Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light?’
This Second Progress Report is part of the EWL’s ongoing work to ensure that parity at all levels of decision-making becomes reality. It tracks developments, progress, and stagnation regarding women on company boards in 11 European countries, including Spain, since the EWL’s first Progress Report on Women on Boards in 2012 – which was awarded the European Public Affairs Award for Report of the Year 2012.

What’s happening in Europe regarding women on boards?

Since the 2012 report, and ongoing campaigning in favour of binding legislation regarding gender parity on company boards across the EU, an EU Directive which aims to attain a 40% gender balance on non-executive boards in large, publicly listed companies across the EU has been proposed and is currently under consideration by the Council. Commissioner for Gender Equality Věra Jourová has committed to seeing the Directive passed within 2015.

We therefore find ourselves at a key moment to reflect on the developments in this area since 2012 across Europe and to learn from this reflection and analysis in order to best inform current and future policy-making in this area.

What has Spain done to crack the glass ceiling since 2012?

Positive steps

  • Following the 2007 Equality Law, the proportion of women on company boards in the largest publicly listed Spanish companies has increased since the 2012 EWL report by 5 percentage points
  • In contrast to other countries studied, progress has been equal in non-executive and executive positions, with a 4 percent increase in both categories since October 2012
  • In January 2014, 31 Spanish firms (including 12 of the IBEX 35 companies) signed an agreement proposed by the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality to increase the amount of women in senior management positions either to at least 20%, or by 5 percentage points, within four years


  • Despite the 2007 Equality Law which stipulated a 40% minimum representation of women in company boards by 2015, progress towards this commendable goal has been very slow and ‘nobody expects to reach it any more’
  • While the figures indicate progress among the IBEX 35 firms, some improvements are due to the changing composition of the IBEX index – the listing of Jazztel, which has four female board members, and the delisting of Endesa, which has never had a female board member, boosted the progress figures
  • The agreement signed in January 2014 only includes 12 of the largest publicly listed companies, is a voluntary agreement, and excludes executive positions

The way forward

The report makes five evidence-based recommendations, which should be taken into account as the future policy landscape regarding women in decision-making at the EU level and the national level is determined:

  1. Binding measures must apply to both executive and non-executive boards
  2. Further action is needed to increase proportion of female CEOs
  3. Effective measures require regular monitoring and intermediary targets
  4. Measures must be enforced with firm sanctions
  5. Quotas must be introduced as part of a comprehensive policy package that seeks to address the fundamental causes of women’s underrepresentation in economic decision-making

Gender parity in positions of economic power is of vital importance when it comes to justice, democracy and sustainable growth. Diverse decision-makers and leaders better represent, better understand, and better respond to the desires and needs of women and men in their diversity – and will be more open to cultivating a new style of leadership which will lead to much-needed transformative social change. As an important step forward towards a progressive, sustainable and inclusive Europe, the European Women’s Lobby demands the adoption and implementation of the current proposed EU Directive on women on boards without further delay. Moreover, we strongly encourage national governments to go above and beyond its requirements and to implement stronger measures to achieve gender parity at all levels of decision-making.

Sources: Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, 21 January 2014 Notas de Prensa
Add Talentia, March 2014. ¿Igualdad de Oportunidades? Presente y futuro de lasmujeres en los consejos de administración 2014. P20

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