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80% of IBEX-35 companies fail to comply with gender equality requirements

8 Marzo - 2022

Erola Palau Pinyana
Researcher in the Operations, Technology & Science Dept.
Coordinator of the Sustainability Observatory


"[...] in order to achieve the desirable gender diversity on the board of directors, it is recommended that female directors represent at least 40% of the total number of board members by 2022"

These lines are written in section III.3.2.2 of the Good Governance Code of the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV). In March 2021, in the article "Gender inequality in the IBEX-35", we see that the famous glass ceiling was still very present in the most powerful companies in Spain. One year later, has anything changed?

Principles of good governance

The CNMV's Code of Good Governance sets out the basis for good corporate governance of Spanish listed companies. They are broken down into two levels:

  1. Mandatory legal regulations, incorporated in the Capital Companies Act and other legal provisions. Recommendations of a voluntary nature and subject to the internationally known "comply or explain" principle. 
  2. Recommendations of a voluntary nature and subject to the internationally known "comply or explain" principle.

The "comply or explain" principle is regulatory in nature and consists of complying with the recommendations or adequately explaining the lack of the follow-up in the annual corporate governance reports. In this way, Spanish law leaves it up to each company to choose whether to follow such recommendations and only requires that, when they are not followed, the reasons are given so that shareholders, investors and customers, among others, can judge them.

80% of IBEX-35 companies do not comply with gender equality requirements, nor do they explain why

The topics covered in this code are diverse and deal with issues related to the functioning of boards of directors, policies for shareholder meetings, remuneration of male and female directors, and sustainability. Specifically, section III.3.2.2, which concentrates the principles for the composition of boards of directors, mentions that "no later than 2022, boards of directors should have 40% female directors".

March 2022, IBEX-35 situation

To find out the situation regarding gender equality in the top positions of the IBEX-35 companies and to see if the recommendations of the Good Governance Code are being complied with, we studied the proportion of women on the boards of directors, based on the most current data (February 2022), published by the companies themselves.

The results are shown in Figure 1, where we observe that the vast majority of boards have less than 39% female directors. It is worrying to see that almost 80% of companies do not comply with gender equality requirements, nor do they explain why. In fact, only eight of the 35 listed companies follow the recommendations of the CNMV.

Figura 1 - Erola Palau
Figura 1. Recompte d'empreses segons la proporció de dones en els consells d'administració. Març 2022 (Font: elaboració pròpia)

Evolution since March 2021

If we look at how the proportion of female directors has evolved since March 2021, we see that the number of companies meeting the gender equality requirements has increased. The green box in Figure 2 shows how, in March 2021, there were four companies with at least 40% female directors. This year, by contrast, this figure has doubled to eight companies. It is worth noting that female directors have mostly increased in companies that last year did not meet the CNMV's parity requirements.

The number of companies failing to achieve 20% women on boards has increased in just one year, from two to six

Figura 2 Erola Palau
Figura 2. Evolució respecte al març de 2021 (Font: elaboració pròpia)

However, in 2022 there has also been an increase in the number of companies that do not even reach the recommended half: from two to six businesses that do not even achieve 20% of female directors.

When will the equality criteria be achieved?

The IBEX-35 is the benchmark stock market index in Spain and contains the most liquid and listed companies in the country. As such, they are businesses that should serve as an example of good practice for the rest of the organisations. However, this analysis shows that women are still under-represented in management bodies and that there is still a long way to go to achieve compliance with the CNMV's recommendations, at least in terms of diversity on boards of directors.

Women are still under-represented in management bodies, event in the benchmark stock market index in Spain

In one year, the situation has improved slightly, and this trend must be continued in order to ensure that all companies meet the equality requirements. How many years do you think it will take to achieve gender equality criteria in Spanish companies?

ODS Erola Palau CAT

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