September 19, 2020

Listed companies need 352 women on their boards to be equal partners | Economy

Listed companies need 352 women on their boards to be equal partners | Economy

Women are just over half of the population in Spain, they graduate more and with better grades at universities. But their CVs do not help them to achieve a balanced presence in the domes of companies, where more than a glass ceiling there is someone who talks about a concrete roof. 18% of listed companies do not have a single counselor – the exception is 35 of the Ibex, all with female representation – and 72% have just two or less. Only one in 10 listed-one in four in the Ibex group-exceed 30% of female presence. The sector with less representation of women is consumer goods (16.7%) and the most, financial and real estate services (18.9%).

The Law on Equality, approved in 2007, already picked up the need for parity in companies but as a recommendation. The listed "will seek to include in its board of directors a number of women that allows a balanced presence of women and men within eight years," said the regulatory text. It was necessary to procure it but it was not attempted: among the 1,363 directors of the listed companies, only 18% are women. The latest work published by the Foundation for Applied Economics Studies (Fedea) and the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), deepens the lack of regulations that encourage faster changes. And he recommends tightening the legislation with a policy of "obligatory and temporary quotas" to push that female presence.

To achieve parity (it is considered that there is a minimum of 40% of one of the two sexes) it would be necessary to replace 352 men, according to the most ambitious calculation of this analysis, which works with a fork depending on the rounding (if we must add 2.4 women are rounded up, 3, or down, 2). In the maximum limit of the fork, to stay in the 30% recommended by the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) for 2020, it would be necessary to relieve 235 men from their current positions, according to the calculations of the aforementioned report Gender Diversity in the Councils: the case of Spain after the Law on Equality, which is made public this Wednesday with data analysis until 2017.

Listed companies need 352 women on their boards to be equal

The work, signed by José Ignacio Conde-Ruiz, professor of Economics at the Complutense University of Madrid and a member of Fedea; Manu García, a researcher in both institutions, and Manuel Yáñez, of the Complutense, also gives the option that would result from what he calls "weak scenario", where all figures are rounded down. In this case, the substitution falls to 253 women (to reach the scenario of 40% of women in the councils) and 126 councilors (with the 30% requested by the CNMV).

"Women are coming to the councils but they are doing it slowly. Mandatory quotas are needed to accelerate that entry and, once there is equilibrium, remove that obligation, "explains the co-author of the Conde-Ruiz report to EL PAÍS.

Mandatory fees

The excuses plagiarized from one report to the next

"Although it is true that there is no presence of women in the Board of Directors, the Board of Directors is willing to balance this situation". This is one of the literal phrases that is repeated year after year in the reports of the listed that must include measures to improve equality. The work of Fedea and the UCM has analyzed how they copy themselves and others (plagiarism and self-plagiarism) as an indication of the interest they show "because of gender diversity". In 2017, at least half of the companies responded by copying 89.5% of the text used the previous year and half of them had copied part of the response from others. The report does not specify what those firms are, but those that have more women are the ones that do the least.

Countries such as Norway, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Iceland already apply mandatory quota policies to reach between 30% and 40% of women on councils. The work highlights the Italian example, where a regulation of 2011 imposed mandatory quotas for listed companies and public companies. The presence of women has since gone up from 6% to 34%. Norway was the pioneer country in introducing by law a mandatory 40% quota in 2005 that came into force three years later. Iceland followed, establishing the same quota in 2013. In Italy, it is mandatory that there be a minimum of 33% of women on councils. Germany has a share of 30% since 2016 and France, of 40% since last year. The last European country to establish these mandatory minimums has been Belgium, which has implemented it this year (33%).

Faced with these examples, only 37 Spanish listed companies, one in four, applied concrete measures in 2017 to try to reduce that gap. The "star measure", according to the report that will be published in Fedea, was to implement a policy of selecting directors.

The Government is studying to implant by law these quotas mandatory to reach parity in 2023. According to the study at the current rate of growth, it would take more than five years to achieve parity in the firms of the Ibex 35, where it would arrive in 2027, and more than two decades in the total of those listed, until 2039.

One of the arguments of the detractors of applying obligatory quotas was that the lack of experience of the women in the management would cause that their incorporation would lower the profitability of the companies. "There is no evidence that profitability falls when they enter, but quite the contrary: diversity is good for profitability because to whom you throw is less prepared men," says Conde-Ruiz. In Sweden, when debating the inclusion of quotas in politics in 1993 at the initiative of the social democratic party was called colloquially with a name that alludes just to that: the "mediocre man crisis".


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