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How Spain’s new gender parity law will affect companies and government

Spain took an important step in the fight for gender equality this Tuesday with the approval of its new gender parity law. Here’s how it will work.

How Spain's new gender parity law will affect companies and government
Spain approves new gender parity law. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

Spain’s Council of Ministers on Tuesday May 23rd definitively approved its new equal representation law, which will affect big companies and public government bodies. It was first pre-approved back in March. 

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez argued that this was another step in the right direction for gender equality in the country.

The new gender parity law is designed to guarantee equal opportunities between men and women, especially in important positions, both in the public and private sectors.  

When it was first announced in March Sánchez said “not one step back” will be taken in defence of equality between men and women, assuring that the law’s new measures will not be dependent on whichever political parties are in government.

It includes clauses to ensure that women make up at least 40 percent of important roles such as in the government and on the board of directors of large companies.  

READ ALSO: Spanish senate gives green light to new trans law

“If women represent half of society, political power and economic power must also belong to women,” said Sánchez. 

What will the parity law apply to?

  • Parliament and Senate – Parties such as Unidas Podemos and PSOE were already ensuring that they had female representation on their own initiative, but it is now mandatory by law. This means that 44 percent of the seats in Spain’s Congress and 39 percent in the Senate must be occupied by women.
  • The Council of Ministers – The Council of Ministers (or Spanish Cabinet) must be “balanced” and have an equal number of men and women, so that each sex must represent at least 40 percent of the total. Currently, the Council of Ministers is made up of 22 positions, of which 14 (63 percent) are women and eight are men.
  • Boards of directors of large companies – The law will be applicable to large listed companies or public interest entities that have more than 250 employees and an annual turnover of €50 million. 40 percent of management positions will have to be filled by women. The presence of women on the board was already a recommendation of the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), the supervisor of the securities markets, but there are many other companies that can also benefit.
  • Governing Boards of professional associations and public recognition juries – The governing boards of professional associations and the juries that award prizes with public money must also comply with the minimum percentage of 40 percent of each sex.  

When will the law come into force?

The approval of the equal representation law means that other legislation already in force such as the general electoral regime, the Government Law and the law on professional associations, among others will also need to be modified.

The law must now be submitted through a long process that includes possible amendments, as well as debates and voting in Congress and the Senate.  

It will only enter into force once it is published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) which will happen once the legislation has made it through the Congress and Senate.

The average time for this entire process is expected to be about five months, which means the law could be in effect before the next general elections, scheduled for the end of the year. 

In 2022 Spain ranked 6th in the EU on the Gender Equality Index with 74.6 out of 100 points. Its score was 6.0 points above the average EU’s score. 

Despite this, there is still a gender wage gap in Spain. Women earn on average 21 percent less than men in Spain and they are in the minority when it comes to the highest wage brackets, according to recent data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute’s (INE) Active Population Survey.

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PROFILE: Spain’s Pedro Sánchez -a risk-taker with a flair for political gambles

Spain's Pedro Sánchez, who announced snap elections Monday May 29th after his ruling Socialists were routed in local polls, is a consummate risk-taker who's shown a flair for daring gambles during his rollercoaster political career.

PROFILE: Spain's Pedro Sánchez -a risk-taker with a flair for political gambles

Weakened by five turbulent years in power that covered the Covid pandemic and the economic crisis linked to the Ukraine war, Spain’s 51-year-old prime minister caught everyone off guard by announcing an early general election in late July.

The vote had been widely expected at the year’s end, but after his Socialists and their allies suffered a major blow in Sunday’s local polls, Sánchez took a risky gamble – in what observers said has been a hallmark of his career.

“The alternative was six months of governmental bloodletting,” said Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist at Barcelona’s Autonomous University. “He’s decided to gamble it all. It’s typical Pedro Sánchez, it’s just what he does,” he told AFP.

It was, agrees Paloma Román, a political scientist at Madrid’s Complutense University, a “strategic calculation” to hang on for the next two months and improve what he already has. “For the Socialists, it’s the lesser of two evils… If they’d held out (until the year’s end) it would have been so much worse,” she said.

A Madrid-born economist and former basketball player, Sánchez went from being an unknown MP who emerged from obscurity in 2014 to seizing the reins of Spain’s oldest political party.

And he has enjoyed a rollercoaster political career.

Written off, bounces back

A leap-year baby who was born in Madrid on February 29th, 1972, Sánchez grew up in a well-off family, the son of an entrepreneur father and a mother who worked as a civil servant.

He studied economics before getting a Master’s degree in political economy at the Free University of Brussels and a doctorate from a private Spanish university.

Elected to the party leadership in 2014, Sánchez was written off politically after leading the Socialists to their worst-ever electoral defeats in 2015 and 2016.

Pedro Sánchez announced a snap election for July 23rd. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Ejected from the leadership, Sánchez unexpectedly won his job back in a primary in May 2017 after a cross-country campaign in his 2005 Peugeot to rally support.

Within barely a year, he took over as premier in June 2018 after an ambitious gamble that saw him topple conservative Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote.

“He is a politician who often makes these kinds of decisions,” said Bartomeus. “So far it’s mostly worked for him… although things are more complicated now,” he said, noting Sánchez had been weakened by his time in office.

Stubborn and tenacious

Always immaculately suited and booted, this telegenic politician – who likes to go running and looms over his rivals at 1.9 metres (6 foot 2 inches) tall – has made a name for himself as stubborn and tenacious.

Over the past five years, he has had to play a delicate balancing act to stay in power.

In February 2019, the fragile alliance of left-wing factions and pro-independence Basque and Catalan parties that had catapulted him to the premiership cracked, prompting him to call early elections.

Although his Socialists won, they fell short of an absolute majority, and Sánchez was unable to secure support to stay in power so he called a repeat election later that year.

Forced into a marriage of convenience with the hard-left Podemos, despite much gnashing of teeth inside his own party, Sánchez has managed to stay in power despite his coalition holding only a minority in parliament.

He has managed to push through a wide range of reforms clearly rooted in the left and overseen a government with the highest-ever number of women.

The first Spanish premier to speak English fluently since the country returned to democracy in the 1970s, Sánchez is married with two teenage daughters.

In February 2019, he detailed his triumphs in an autobiography called “Resistance Manual”, the first to be published in Spain by a sitting premier.