The participation of women in corporate governance at the local level reached 14.7% at the end of 2022 and is increasing, but still below the OECD average of 30%. “As a recent issue, women in high positions face the challenge of being mentors and inspirations for other women,” says Consuelo Mackenna, partner in the corporate area of Apparcel Uriarte Abogados.
Several companies have provided more opportunities for women in positions of power, including reaching boardrooms. In fact, according to the Fourth Report on Gender Indicators in Companies in Chile, prepared by the Ministries of Finance and Economy, the ChileWomen Foundation, and the International Labour Organization, the participation of women in corporate governance at the local level reached 14.7% at the end of 2022. However, it is below the OECD’s 30% average.
Consuelo Mackenna, partner in the corporate area of Apparcel Uriarte Abogados, states that “while it is not the remedy for achieving greater equality of opportunities from a work perspective between men and women, the inclusion of women in boards does force equally qualified women, and even those with skills specific to their gender, to sit at the table and make business decisions. We view especially positively the fact that it is a relevant issue that most companies are addressing.”
For Mackenna, gender parity allows for a more equitable representation of society in these companies. “If the world is practically composed of equal parts men and women, why is there currently this underrepresentation in the top management of companies? Moreover, a significant part of the workforce in Chile is made up of women,” says the lawyer.
In that sense, “seeing women in leadership roles is an inspiration to continue breaking gender stereotypes; there are even studies that indicate that gender diversity in boards leads to better business performance, better returns, better risk management, and greater innovation, as a different approach contributes to better decision-making, helps avoid groupthink, and opens up a range of solutions to certain problems. Additionally, we are consumers in most economies worldwide, so having women at the table allows companies a better understanding of the needs of their respective markets.”
In November 2022, the “More Women in Boards” bill was introduced to Parliament, driven by the Ministries of Economy, Development and Tourism, Finance, and Women and Gender Equality. This project proposes to gradually increase the participation of women in the boards of open and special joint-stock companies by requiring a threshold of 40% by the sixth year after the law is published. Its design warns that women and men can have the same talents and significantly contribute to the development of organizations and the country, and that it is necessary to promote equality, diversity, and deepen the guarantee of rights and democracy through affirmative measures.
“Promoting gender parity in boards and top management aligns with promoting more inclusive work environments within the broad spectrum of inclusion we know today. Companies want to be recognized as good places to work, seek to attract and retain talent, so those committed to gender diversity, equal opportunities, and professional development of their employees probably have a team composed of highly qualified talents,” comments the Apparcel Uriarte lawyer.
According to the OCEC 2022 Report (Economic Context Observatory), women in Chile earn 21.7% less than men, a gap that decreases to 18.8% in formal jobs and rises to 30.1% in informal ones. “To foster an inclusive and equitable environment, companies must work to reduce wage gaps; moreover, even eliminate gender as a consideration. With two equally competent individuals, gender should not influence. Also, it is important for companies to establish mechanisms to reconcile work with family, as this is a significant impediment for many women when taking on greater work responsibilities,” Mackenna asserts.
Finally, the professional comments that there are challenges to be faced. “The biases and stereotypes that the business world may have regarding women in high positions will not completely disappear even with parity. Still, the idea is to continue promoting the role of women and thus validate their competencies and leadership. Also, as a relatively recent issue, there may be few role models. That is why the challenge grows even more, as women will also have to play a role as mentors and inspirations for other women,” concludes the lawyer.