Broad strategic vision, alignment with shareholders, greater risk perception and better relationship with external advisors.
These are, among others, the capacities that women jurists can add to the board of directors of a company, as reflected in the report Women jurists on the Boards of Directors of IBEX 35, prepared by the Center for Corporate Governance of Esade and Women in a Legal World (WLW), with the collaboration of Alexander Hughes, which aims to address the benefits of diversity in the highest representative bodies from two different perspectives: gender diversity and the professional or educational diversity of directors.
In relation to the latter, those responsible for the study point out the high proportion of directors with legal training —98, 22% of the 448 counted, in 30 companies—, despite not being among the requirements for their appointment.
The director of the ESADE Corporate Governance Center, Mario Lara, attributes this circumstance to the close relationship between training as a company administrator and manager and training in Law, and to the regulatory knowledge required by the regulations on good corporate governance.
“The legal profile of the directors contributes to a rigorous compliance and a different perspective regarding the perception of risk that the rest of the directors have. Further,
Adding the variable of educational diversity to that of gender diversity, the study indicates that, at present, the Ibex 35 has 27 women jurists on its boards – 6% of the total number of board members – in 21 companies .
A profile that, according to Marlen Estévez, president of WLW, “can provide wealth in risk analysis, strategic and commercial vision, and extensive knowledge on issues relevant to corporate governance, sustainability or cybersecurity of the company.”
Furthermore, points out Eugenia Bieto, director of the Esade Women Initiative (EWI) and co-author of the study, “the agendas of the governing bodies of companies have determinedly incorporated the criteria for socially responsible investment, called ESG [which combines three factors: environmental (E), social (S), and government (G)] especially in the post-Covid scenario ”.
In fact, he adds, “it would not make sense to discuss social, environmental or corporate governance policies in teams where diversity is conspicuous by its absence.” Because the incorporation of women to the boards of directors, Bieto believes, is strongly correlated with creativity and innovation, indisputable bases of business growth, especially in times of uncertainty.
Of the total of 27 female lawyers, 30% are concentrated in the energy sector, followed by the financial (22%) and industry (11%) sectors.
Regarding the position they occupy within the board, 74% of these professionals are independent directors and 8% act as executive directors. Regarding the roles they play within this body, 3%, a woman, is president of the council. This is the case of Beatriz Corredor, president of the Red Eléctrica group.
Regarding the previous professional career, the report reflects that 42% of the analyzed profiles of female lawyers provide professional experience in business and another 24% of them in the public function. From a global perspective, the authors also point out that 36% of all legal advisers who come from politics are women.
In light of these results, the experts from Esade and WLW conclude that legal training is increasingly necessary to gain access to a board of directors and, based on this finding, they propose different actions, since from the point of view academic, point out the relevance of including specialized subjects in business – corporate governance, strategy, finance and talent management – within the degrees and masters of Law, and in the field of research.
They suggest guiding this to the analysis of the contribution of jurists on the boards of directors of, among others, companies in the continuous market, the third sector and the family business.
The study vindicates 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 regarding this.