Gender diversity plans failing to bear fruit in Spanish firms: McKinsey report

Consultancy says GDP would grow 8% by 2025 if ratios reached the EU average level

Carmen Sánchez-Silva
Women are still underrepresented in top management.
Women are still underrepresented in top management.Getty

Women are underrepresented at all rungs of the workplace ladder, but most especially in top management. Despite the progress that has been made, in Spain only 11% of executive committee members are women, and women comprise just 19% of members of corporate boards, far below the EU average of 15% in executive committees and 28% on boards.

These are some of the conclusions of a report presented by global management consultants McKinsey&Company. And mandatory gender-diversity plans for companies with over 250 employees do not seem to be working, either. Over 60% of companies invest in them, but only 17% achieve any progress, according to the consulting firm.

Women are a source of critical talent, and their presence in top management is not what it should be, either in Spain, Europe or around the world, according to Duarte Braga, director of McKinsey&Company for the Iberian peninsula, who introduced the new report Women matter: a way forward for Spain.

There’s a lot of ‘I’ve got the plan ready,’ but there is no follow-up

María del Mar Martínez, McKinsey Spain senior partner

McKinsey surveyed 47 of the country’s largest businesses, half of them listed on the blue-chip Ibex 35 stock market index. The conclusions are clear: women are poorly represented.

If women’s presence on boards and executive committees reached the EU average, the Spanish GDP would add eight percentage points by 2025, according to McKinsey. At the current rate, it will be 15 years before that ratio is reached.

Reaching those goals requires a strong commitment by business leaders regarding the importance of gender diversity, says María del Mar Martínez, a senior partner at McKinsey Spain and author of the report. It is not profitable to make do without half of existing talent, because women make most consumption decisions and because they improve companies’ financial and organizational results. Yet only 26% of Spanish CEOs list gender diversity among their top 10 strategic priorities.

Ever since the Equality Law was passed in 2007, companies with over 250 employees have adopted gender-diversity plans: 75% of the 47 companies surveyed for the report had more than 20 initiatives on their programs, putting them at EU levels. But implementation has been spotty. Even though 60% of companies are investing in it, “only 17% are seeing any progress,” says María del Mar Martínez. “And that’s frustrating.”

No follow-up

The lack of progress is mostly due to the fact that equality and diversity plans exist on paper, but the measures they list have not been put in place.

McKinsey surveyed 47 of the country’s largest businesses, half of them listed on the blue-chip Ibex 35

“There’s a lot of ‘I’ve got the plan ready,’ but there is no follow-up,” says Martínez.

Changing this situation requires a commitment by top management, and action at various levels depending on the industry: automotive, energy, construction and engineering have a problem with women’s access to the profession. In health, commerce and logistics, the trouble lies in developing women’s careers. And in finance, technology, telecommunications and the media, the problem is reaching top management positions.

“Each company must focus on the trouble areas and take measures,” says Martínez.

McKinsey believes there is a need for improvement in the lifestyles of male and female executives in Spain, where 75% of firms expect their employees to be available at all times.

English version by Susana Urra.

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