Equality between men and women was firmly addressed in Spain by a 2007 Act on the Effective Equality between Men and Women, which incorporated European Directives into national law.

The purpose of this law was to state principles of action for public bodies; the rights and obligations of entities and individuals, both public and private; and the specific measures to remove and avoid sex discrimination.

In the private sector, the Act established, among other things, general procedures aimed at achieving effective equality of men and women within the organizations, including a provision on quotas of women on the board of directors of middle-sized and large Spanish companies.

In particular, there is a recommendation (not an obligation) for these types of companies to try to include women on the board of directors to reach a "balanced situation" within a period of eight years from the date the Act applied.  A "balanced situation" was defined as a number of women representing from 60% to 40% of the members of the management body of the company.

As an incentive, the Act requires the Employment Ministry to create a "badge" for companies which stand out in the application of policies to grant equality between men and women.  The balanced situation on the board of directors is taken into consideration for these purposes.

Listed companies are also subject to the recommendations included in this area in the current Unified Good Governance Code, where companies are encouraged to make efforts to include women on the board of directors by removing obstacles to appointing female directors and pro-actively searching for women who meet the required professional profile for these positions.

On this topic, from the date of the approval of a Circular Resolution of 12 June 2013, by the National Securities Market Commission, listed companies are required to publish in the Annual Corporate Governance Reports:

  • the number of women on the board of directors during the last four fiscal years and their posts
  • the measures that have been taken to promote a balance situation in the management body of the company; and
  • the actions taken to remove obstacles that prevent women from being part of the board and to target women in the recruitment process.

In practice, the number of women in the Board of Directors of companies in Spain increased from the approval of the 2007 Act.  However, latest statistics from the National Statistics Institute show that the effective equality between men and women is still far from being a reality: in 2011 only 7.25% of the members of the management bodies of the companies in IBEX 35 (The Spanish Exchange Index, a market capitalisation weighted index comprising the 35 most liquid Spanish stocks traded in the Madrid Stock Exchange) were women (in the Boards of Directors, the percentage reaches 8.2%) and 1% of women were appointed President of the Boards.

In conclusion, several measures have been taken to boost women on company boards but we still have a long way to reach an effective equality between men and women in the management of private companies.