Equality in the Office: An Ethical and Economic Objective

La igualdad en la empresa: Objetivo ético y económico

This past Tuesday, ASBA had the pleasure of attending the panel discussion “La igualdad en la empresa: Objetivo ético y económico”, hosted by the Australian Embassy in Spain, AMMDE (la Asociación Madrileña de Mujeres Directvia y Empresarias), and Madrid Foro Empresarial to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th). The discussion, regarding the ethical claims and evidence of economic potential behind the fight for equality in the workplace, was opened by Paula Gómez-Angulo Amorós, Managing Director of the General Directorate for Women of the Community of Madrid. Navantia and Airbus, ASBA members, shared their experience.

Paula began by sharing a few impactful statistics regarding the position of women in the Spanish workforce: women comprise nearly 47% of the workforce in Spain, but men make 14.2% more than women (it’s important to note, though, that this is better than the European Union’s average of 16.2%). If we consider all factors that affect wage, however – including hourly salary, number of hours of paid work, and employment rates – the gender wage gap increases to an astounding 35.7%. And if we look up, the statistics only become more severe: only 6.3% of women are in directorial positions.

Sara Navarro, president of AMMDE, punctuated these numbers by outlining the main issues facing Spanish working women: lower salaries, less participation in positions of power and in decision-making, greater unemployment, and higher rates of withdrawal from the workforce. She added that, according to the Ministry of Employment, 90% of leaves of absence are requested by women. “We cannot be penalized for being mothers!” was the phrase of the day.

Matt Skelly, Deputy Head of Mission of the Australian Embassy, presented figures evidencing Australia’s commitment to gender equality. He spoke of the report “Towards 2025: An Australian Government Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation”, which details the millions of dollars the government has invested in programs working towards gender equality, such as $13 million AUD dedicated to the promotion of STEM careers for women through the National Innovation and Science Agenda, along with an addition $31.2 million AUD in internships and support for women interested in studying or working in STEM careers.

Ana Becerra-Riveroll, Second Secretary of the Australian Embassy, moderated the panel discussion (in lieu of Julie-Ann Guivarra, Australian Embassador to Spain, who was unable to attend). Represented on the panel were the following businesswomen and men:

  • María Ángeles Marti Martínez, Vice President of Airbus’ A350 RFE Program
  • Hilario Alfaro, President of Madrid Foro Empresarial
  • María José Ramo, Partner of J&A Garrigues
  • Juan Díaz-Andreu, CEO of MBIT School
  • Gloria Lomana, President of 50&50 Gender Leadership Advisory
  • Ana Moya, Naval Conceptual Engineering Director of Navantia

A few highlights from the panel discussion:

María José spoke of the new “Plan Optimum” implemented in Garrigues, which allows new mothers and fathers to work reduced hours for up to two years without affecting their salary.

María Ángeles explained that Airbus, ASBA member, has very clear objectives with regard to gender equality: in 2010, a goal was set to have women fill 20% of leadership roles by 2020. That goal was achieved, and a new one set: 30% of leadership roles should be held by women by 2030.

Hilario Alfaro referred to a “sticky floor” rather than a “glass ceiling” with respect to the ascension of women in companies, stating that it’s often most difficult for women to be promoted from the lower levels of the companies.

Gloria Lomana challenged the commonly-felt need for women to prove that they are capable of being leaders by acting like their male counterparts, which results in incompatibility between femininity and leadership.

Juan Díaz-Andreu proposed what seemed like a revolutionary idea: women should invest in a “gender equality” bond that would support companies with measures in place to promote gender parity. However, QBE Insurance Group, an ASBA member, proposed such a bond in 2017, worth $400 million. Applications flooded in, totaling more than $8.25 billion.

Is gender inequality a thing of the past? No. But it doesn’t need to be part of our future. These round table discussions remind us that there are plenty of people who are willing to fight for gender equality – and many more who have already started.