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66% of female executives say informal networks play a key role in helping women reach positions of responsibility in business

Four out of 10 Spanish CEOs (up from 2.6 last year) are directly involved in increasing women’s presence in their companies, but more effective measures to foster work-life balance are still needed

Sixty-six percent of Spain’s female executives believe that informal networks – colleagues, bosses, other professionals, etc. – play a key role in helping women reach positions of responsibility in business, but only 15% feel that they dedicate enough time to cultivating such a network. This is one finding of the second edition of the ESADE Gender Monitor, a study of gender balance in the business world. In this survey, more than 500 female executives in Spain were asked about their companies’ equality policies and the major challenges that remain in the area of gender equality. Motherhood was described as an obstacle by 24.5% of the surveyed women who have children; the percentage was half that among women who do not have children. The group most concerned about not dedicating sufficient time to networking was women who do not live with a partner.

Difficulties getting promoted and lack of time for informal networking

The high-potential female executives who were surveyed for the ESADE Gender Monitor continue to perceive difficulties in their progress up the corporate ladder. More than 75% of the women surveyed said that their company’s management committee is not gender-balanced, and half of these respondents said women make up less than 15% of the committee.

The involvement of top management in the gender-balance issue has grown over the past year, but few plans have actually been put into place, especially with regard to measures aimed at helping professionals strike a balance between their private and professional lives. Although work-life balance remains the second most frequently mentioned barrier to women’s careers in this edition of the ESADE Gender Monitor, more of the surveyed companies have started to prioritise women’s knowledge and skills training (71.9%) as well as the recruitment and selection of female talent (58.9%).

Sixty-three percent of the women surveyed said that men in positions of responsibility who adopt work-life balance measures face as many or more difficulties than women. This is an interesting finding because it contradicts the traditional idea that work-life balance is a women’s issue. According to the study, striking a balance between a career and one’s private and family life is a concern shared by men and women alike, thus requiring creative solutions on the part of companies. 

When asked about the composition of their informal networks, half of the women surveyed said the networks were composed of people outside their companies with strong connections in the business world, as well as women in positions similar to their own. The respondents placed less emphasis on co-workers, bosses and other influential people in their organisation.

“Without a doubt, we still have a long way to go and the most important unfinished business is at the top of the organisation: boards of directors and management committees,” commented Patricia Cauqui, Academic Assistant at ESADE Business School and director of the ESADE Gender Monitor. “Once there is a critical mass of women in positions of power, co-defining structures alongside male politicians in a way that works for everyone, then we’ll be able to speak of inclusion rather than integration. For now, we can say that women are merely integrated in structures that were defined by men many years ago. We are still a long way from complying with the EU Directive that calls for at least 40% of seats in all decision-making bodies to be held by members of the less-represented gender by 2020.”