Red Eléctrica Española, Acciona, FCC, CaixaBank, Inditex or Viscofan are the listed Spanish companies with the most gender-balanced boards of directors based on the gender profile of their members
Spain: new measures, but are these enough?
As we already mentioned in our previous post, the measures contained in the Draft Law relating to corporate governance of corporate enterprises refer exclusively to commercial undertakings listed on the Spanish secondary stock market and provides that a commission set the goal of representation for the underrepresented sex, in addition to facilitating the appointment of women in the selection processes for directors.
In 2013, 79.5% of women directors of IBEX-35 companies were independent directors, another 16.4% were consejeras dominicales (directors representing shareholders with substantial shareholdings) and only 4.1% were executive directors, in companies such as Banco Santander, Telefónica, Arcelor and Bankinter. There were also two Chairwomen of the Board: in Dia and FCC.
We cannot deny that in Spain gender quotas on corporate boards are an example of the catalyst effect that the adoption of legislative measures can have. We have to recall that Organic Law 3/2007 of 22 March 2007 for Effective Equality of Women and Men included a recommendation that companies (and not just listed ones) include in their boards of directors a number of women that would permit balanced representation of gender, leading to a sharp increase in the presence of female directors in Spanish listed companies (from 3.30% in 2005 to 17.23% in 2013).
On the other hand, the Unified Good Governance Code, published in 2006 by the National Securities Market Commission (in Spanish “CNMV”) contains other recommendations: in the event that there are no directors or that a limited number are appointed, the Board shall state the reasons for, as well as the initiatives adopted to correct this situation. In addition, the appointments committee must ensure that when filling new vacancies, selection policies involving positive discrimination in favor of women are adhered to.
But what lies behind these equality policies? Do they only seek social justice between genders? Many studies conclude that greater gender parity undoubtedly leads to improved performance by businesses: not only because more women in the corporate governance of companies implies the proper management of diversity, but also because of better quality in decision making, the existence of more innovation, a better knowledge of the market or identification with customers, as well as greater use of European talent (let us not forget that 60% of European students are women).
We therefore welcome the fact that with the Draft Law this matter will be incorporated directly into the Spanish Corporate Enterprises Act, and subsequently integrated into the Commercial Code, although it is likely that it may remain a mere statement of good political intentions. This will certainly help, but it will be insufficient if the threshold of 40% female presence on boards of directors by 2020 – the target earmarked by proposed European legislation – is to be reached. Clearer mandatory rules, including deadlines and administrative or financial penalties, would have been preferable. As things are, the fate of female board directors is sealed… though perhaps it can still be modified in the parliamentary debate.