Esade and WLW highlight the contribution of women lawyers to IBEX boards35
Broad strategic vision, alignment with shareholders, better risk perception and better relationship with external advisors. These are, among others, the skills that women lawyers can add to a company’s board of directors. This is reflected in the report “ Women lawyers on IBEX 35 boards ”, prepared by the Center for Corporate Governance of Esade and Women in a Legal World (WLW), with the collaboration of Alexander Hughes, which aims at the advantages of diversity within boards of directors under two aspects: diversity and professional or educational diversity of directors.
Regarding the latter, those responsible for the study highlight the high proportion of directors with legal training – 98.22% of the 448 surveyed, in 30 companies -, although they are not part of the conditions of their appointment. . Mario Lara, director of the ESADE Corporate Governance Center, attributes this circumstance to the close relationship between training as a director and company manager and training in law, and to the regulatory knowledge required by the regulations on good governance. corporate governance: ” The legal profile of directors contributes to rigorous compliance and a different perspective on the risk perception that other directors have. In addition, there is the calm effect that these numbers give to the rest of the directors in the decision-making process, thanks to their legal skills and experience, ” he said.
By adding the variable of educational diversity to that of co-education, the study indicates that at present, IBEX 35 has 27 women lawyers on its boards of directors – 6% of the total number of directors – in 21 companies. A profile which, according to Marlen Estvez, president of WLW, “ can bring a wealth of risk analysis, strategic and commercial vision, and in-depth knowledge of the issues related to corporate governance, sustainability or cybersecurity of the company ”.
” The agendas of corporate governance bodies have resolutely integrated the criteria of socially responsible investment, says ESG, especially in the post-Covid scenario, added Eugenia Bieto, director of the Esade Women Initiative (EWI) and co- author of the study. It will not make sense to discuss social, environmental or corporate governance policies in teams where diversity is conspicuous by its absence. In addition, the inclusion of women on boards of directors is strongly correlated with creativity and innovation, indisputable bases for business growth, especially in times of uncertainty, ” said Bieto.
Out of a total of twenty-seven women lawyers, 30% are concentrated in the energy sector, followed by the financial (22%) and industrial (11%) sectors. Regarding the position they occupy on the board, 74% of them are independent directors and 8% act as chief executive officer. In relation to the roles they play in this body, 3%, a woman, is chair of the board. With regard to the previous professional career, the report reveals that 42% of the analyzed profiles of women lawyers bring professional experience in business and 24% of them in the public service. From a global perspective, the authors also point out that 36% of all legal advisers with backgrounds in politics are women.
Training and research to improve the presence of lawyers on boards
In view of these results, the experts from Esade and WLW conclude that legal training is increasingly necessary to access a board of directors and, on the basis of this observation, propose various actions in the fields of training, research, management of boards of directors and raising awareness of public debate.
From an academic point of view, they emphasize the relevance of including specialized subjects in business – corporate governance, strategy, finance and talent management – in law degrees and masters, and in the field of research, they suggest orienting it towards the analysis of the contribution of lawyers to boards of directors, among others, of continuous market companies, third sector and family businesses.
Regarding the internal management of boards of directors, the authors of the report stress that it is important to consider, in an appropriate way, the presence of legal profiles in these bodies, as the best tool to guide the search for new members. , the design of succession plans for directors and the allocation of roles in committees. Finally, the study justifies the value of legal training for good corporate governance and the need to sensitize the different interest groups in the chain of setting up a council on this subject.
“The diversity of experiences, knowledge and reflections within a governing body is fundamental for decision-making processes so complex that our boards must tackle today in an environment which is increasingly regulated and where regulation, in numerous studies and managerial surveys, has emerged as a variable that determines the success and future of many companies and sectors, ”the study concludes.