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Women Matter, Spain: Women are still far from top corporate-leadership positions

March 31, 2023
Diversity & Inclusion

Over the years, a changing corporate world has become more open for women, but the glass ceiling remains very much in place. This invisible barrier, which hinders women from rising to leadership positions, is just one of the identified constraints on women’s professional progress. The other is the leaky pipeline, or the increasing scarcity of women as you go up the corporate hierarchy.

Women account for more than half of the labor force in Spain, but it lags behind the European average for women in top positions (Exhibit 1). There has been almost no growth in the representation of women in top roles during the past two years. Despite the efforts of companies to develop policies that promote equal opportunity, Spain’s glass ceiling apparently won’t shatter anytime soon.

Why are women—who at the start of their careers place as much importance on advancement as men do—largely absent from C-suites and senior managerial roles?1 And how can this imbalance be remedied, beyond corporate policies and government regulations?

Women Matter 2023, which focuses on Iberia and includes insights from 45 Portuguese and Spanish companies, aims to answer these questions. The present report offers our perspectives on Spain. At a high level, the sluggish pace of advancement of women toward leadership positions results from multiple complex factors. These include invisible barriers in work and family life, as well as the widely held perception among women that companies don’t cater to their needs. Gender stereotypes are also part of the equation: women often occupy positions in support functions rather than line positions, and that can shrink their management prospects.

Even when women do progress to the upper echelons, they still take on the lion’s share of family and household responsibilities at home. Thirty-nine percent of top women managers, from CEOs to senior managers, say they are the sole overseer of the household, versus just 8 percent of men. Women’s aspirations at work reflect this difference: 43 percent of men are keen to take on positions of high responsibility, but only 36 percent of women feel the same. Women are not only less likely to feel confident that they will progress to higher levels in the workplace but also become increasingly disenchanted as the years go by.

What’s more, women are less inclined than men to take up opportunities abroad: only 2 percent of women in senior-management positions participate in international programs, compared with 9 percent of men (Exhibit 2). Since 60 percent of the CEOs of the companies analyzed have previous international experience, mobility could be an invisible barrier to women applying for general-management positions. READ MORE

by: Eduardo Bolio, Antonio De Gregorio, María del Mar Martínez Márquez, Dafni Giannikou, Gloria Macías, and Amaia Noguera Lasa


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