Gender-Balanced Seats, Equal Power and Greater Gender Equality? Zooming into the Boardroom of Companies Bound by the Portuguese Gender Quota Law
- To what extent is the gender quota law bringing about a re-composition of corporate boards, leading towards a greater gender balance (descriptive representation) and, at the same time, eliciting an equal share of positions of power and influence between male and female board members (substantive gender equality) in internal boardroom dynamics)?
- In what ways is an improved gender balance on boards producing greater interest among female board members and their male counterparts in the concerns of female workers and advancing gender equality at the workplace level (substantive representation)?
- How are the legally bound companies designing and adopting GEAPs as key strategic tools of a gender mainstreaming approach aimed at advancing gender equality at the workplace level (transformative institutional change)?
2. Theoretical Framework
3. Setting the Context: The Gender Quota Law in Portugal
4. Methodological Options
Data Collection and Analysis
5. Results and Discussion
5.1. Descriptive Representation—Towards Greater Gender Balance on Corporate Boards
5.2. From a Greater Gender Balance to Substantive Equality?
Oh yes, clearly. I have a lot of influence. We try to make sure decisions are consensual, and when they are not consensual, they stay on hold, and, the next week, at the next board meeting, or even informally, at lunch, in a cafe, we debate them again, and we come back to work on them. But there are many occasions when the first decision is not consensual, and it is necessary to talk a little. Mainly for my colleague: he clearly preferred tighter portfolios, and the maintenance of some status quo from the past, and this implies a greater openness for discussing issues.—W_SOC133
Oh, completely (having an influence on decision-making). On top of that, I have a very strong temper, and, therefore, I find it very difficult not to argue to exhaustion something that I defend. And so, I also know how to respect collegial decision-making, and try to find a point of consensus that I feel comfortable with. But I feel that I have the possibility, the opportunity, to express my point of view, and I have respect from my colleagues, and in particular from the chair of the board of directors, who respects me a lot and listens to my opinions.—W_SOC17
And then there’s another thing, I think we women do less networking, and now, after all these years, what’s the conclusion I’ve come to? Nothing important is discussed in meetings; important things are discussed either beforehand or afterwards. So, if you want to have an impact, if you want to change something, you have to lobby people one by one. If you want to say something important at the meeting and have someone listen to you, you have to talk to three or four people beforehand.—W_PLC15
I would say, clearly at the executive committee level and then on the board, behind-the-scenes work is essential.—W_PLC30
If I was alone? It would be harder, much harder. I have no doubt that it is not indifferent whether you have more than one woman. By the way, my life was not very easy at the beginning, and if it weren’t for my female colleague, who is extraordinary, and who supported me from the very first moment, things would have been a lot more complicated. And so, yes, it’s true that it wouldn’t be the same if I was alone.—W_SOC7
My problem is that sometimes I feel very lonely because I am sometimes the only one in a meeting with the Board of Directors (…) To be honest, I often feel that I am alone; in the sense that this doesn’t seem very fair to me, and I’m not an ornament, I’m a thinking human being, who actually thinks quite well.—W_LGC10
When I joined the company, it was all men and me. (…) I spent two years alone; it was an otherworldly thing. Men used to make a few jokes from time to time, and then apologise. I felt that this wasn’t my place. If they make these kinds of jokes, well, then that’s pretty nasty.—W_PLC15
5.3. From Greater Gender Balance to Substantive Representation?
I would say that the concern with gender equality in the company is not only present in the minds of the female members of the board, but also in those of the male members. The President, in particular, is extremely sensitive and concerned about these aspects. So, it absolutely cuts across both genders.—W_SOC5
This commitment does exist, and it is reflected in our decisions, too; decisions on hiring, developing activities, training, raising awareness and creating opportunities, so that there is no discrimination whatsoever in having a Gender Equality Action Plan. In fact, this commitment is in our own code of conduct.—M_SOC42
I think the measures [of the Gender Equality Action Plan] that I value most were the ones that worked towards tackling the gender pay gap. Because our first temptation was to think there was no problem. And then the Sustainability Director herself was doing some research based on the data that are publicly known, working with the colleague from Human Resources, and we came to the conclusion that in fact there are still some issues that, from our point of view, need improvement.—W_SOC4
There is another theme that also needs to be addressed: I can have gender diversity and a gender pay gap, as English law firms did, for example, where the partners earned between 32% and 42% more than other board members at the same hierarchical level. The board of directors has to be strongly committed and request the executive committee to take the necessary measures to close these gaps.—M_SOC26
5.4. Is There Room for Transformative Institutional Change?
- High implementation potential: GEAP in which the formulation of at least 90% of the measures is complemented with information on the six categories that enable their monitoring;
- Moderately high implementation potential: GEAP in which the formulation of two thirds of the measures (but fewer than 90% of all measures) is complemented with information for all the categories that enable their monitoring;
- Moderate implementation potential: GEAP in which the formulation of at least half of the measures (but fewer than 66% of the total) is complemented with information for all the categories that enable their monitoring.
- Moderately low implementation potential: GEAP in which the formulation of at least one third of the measures (but fewer than half of all measures) is complemented with information for all the categories that enable their monitoring.
- Low or zero implementation potential: GEAP in which the formulation of fewer than one third of the measures is complemented with information for all the categories that enable their monitoring.
6. Concluding Remarks
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|PLCs (N = 39)||PLCs to Which Law No. 62 (2017) Applies (N = 14) *||PLCs (N = 38)||PLCs to Which Law No. 62 (2017) Applies (N = 23) *||PLCs (N = 38)||PLCs to Which the Minimum Threshold of 20% Applies (N = 23) *||PLCs to Which the Minimum Threshold of 33.3% Applies (N = 10) *|
|% of women on management bodies||18%||22%||23%||24%||26%||26%||31%|
|% of women on supervisory bodies||19%||22%||29%||32%||32%||33%||33%|
|% of women in executive positions||9%||12%||13%||15%||14%||15%||11%|
|% of women in non-executive positions||27%||29%||31%||30%||36%||33%||49%|
|No. of women CEOs||1||0||1||1||1||1||0|
|No. of women chairpersons||1||0||1||1||2||2||0|
|No. of women presidents of supervisory bodies||2||1||5||2||5||3||1|
|State-Owned Companies (N = 186)*||State-Owned Companies to Which Law No. 62 (2017) Applies (N = 69) *||Local Government Companies (N = 157) **||State-Owned Companies (N = 173) ***||State-Owned Companies to Which Law No. 62 (2017) Applies (N = 99) ***||Local Government Companies (N = 181) ****|
|% of women on management bodies||36%||45%||29%||40%||44%||29%|
|% of women on supervisory bodies||43%||47%||N/A||42%||45%||N/A|
|% of women in executive positions||37%||44%||24%||41%||45%||29%|
|% of women in non-executive positions||30%||38%||35%||38%||43%||37%|
|No. of women chairpersons||29||18||23||31||25||25|
|No. of women presidents of supervisory bodies||34||21||N/A||41||34||N/A|
|I always share my opinion, regardless of whether or not it is the same as that of my colleagues||4.76||0.50||2||5||4.75||4.77||0.24||0.81|
|I am always given the opportunity to share my opinion||4.78||0.48||2||5||4.78||4.77||−0.22||0.82|
|My colleagues share all relevant information with me||4.43||0.67||2||5||4.45||4.42||−0.28||0.78|
|I am consulted by my colleagues||4.67||0.49||3||5||4.70||4.64||−0.81||0.42|
|I feel that I am treated with respect||4.74||0.47||3||5||4.78||4.70||−1.07||0.29|
|I feel that my credibility is recognised||4.72||0.49||3||5||4.73||4.70||−0.48||0.63|
|It is easy to get support from colleagues to share my positions and proposals||4.48||0.62||2||5||4.49||4.45||−0.40||0.69|
|I have an influence on decision-making||4.57||0.60||2||5||4.53||4.61||0.79||0.43|
|Women and men who serve on the board of directors socialise outside meetings||3.64||1.09||1||5||3.56||3.72||0.94||0.35|
|Is it your experience that women and men are equally active in discussions in management and supervisory bodies?||Yes, Men and Women Are Equally Active||No, Men Are More Active||No, Women Are More Active||Chi-Square||p-Value|
|Equality between women and men in the company||4.22||0.86||1||5||4.35||4.07||−2.10 **||0.04|
|For the company in general||4.13||0.78||1||5||4.15||4.10||−0.41||0.68|
|For the chairperson/CEO of the corporate board you belong to||4.18||0.85||1||5||4.18||4.18||−0.01||0.99|
|For the corporate board you belong to||4.15||0.80||1||5||4.18||4.12||−0.52||0.60|
|For your peers on the corporate board||4.06||0.82||1||5||4.12||4.00||−0.93||0.36|
|Promote a balanced participation of women and men in management and leadership positions (for example: heads of department, middle management)||4.22||0.83||1||5||4.38||4.04||−2.67 ***||0.01|
|Ensure equal pay for women and men on the corporate board (including variable and fixed supplements)||4.51||0.92||1||5||4.63||4.39||−1.64||0.10|
|Ensure equal pay for women and men in the company (including variable and fixed supplements)||4.52||0.90||1||5||4.62||4.40||−1.54||0.13|
|Promote equality between women and men in the enjoyment of rights in the field of reconciling work and family life||4.50||0.81||1||5||4.62||4.38||−1.90||0.06|
We do not focus on symbolic representation, as its manifestations are beyond the scope of our research, which focuses on the private sector.
The Women on Boards-PT Database results from our study Women on Boards: An Integrative Approach and is based on data gathered from the following sources: financial statement reports, corporate governance reports, minutes/communications of general meetings, communications of deliberations, and company websites. Although PLCs have made relevant information about the composition of their boards available to the wider public, it was not possible to gather information on the composition of the boards for the whole universe to the public sector (state-owned and local government) companies. The limited data available refer to 2019 and 2020 and are even more restricted in relation to local government enterprises.
The interview segments were codified as follows: the first letter indicates the sex of the interviewee (W = woman; M = man), the next three letters represent the segment/group to which the interviewee’s company belongs (PLC = publicly listed company; SOC = state-owned company; LGC = local government company); the following two numbers represent the interview number/chronological order.
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Casaca, S.F.; Marques, S.R.; Guedes, M.J.; Seierstad, C. Gender-Balanced Seats, Equal Power and Greater Gender Equality? Zooming into the Boardroom of Companies Bound by the Portuguese Gender Quota Law. Soc. Sci. 2022, 11, 449. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11100449
Casaca SF, Marques SR, Guedes MJ, Seierstad C. Gender-Balanced Seats, Equal Power and Greater Gender Equality? Zooming into the Boardroom of Companies Bound by the Portuguese Gender Quota Law. Social Sciences. 2022; 11(10):449. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11100449Chicago/Turabian Style
Casaca, Sara Falcão, Susana Ramalho Marques, Maria João Guedes, and Cathrine Seierstad. 2022. "Gender-Balanced Seats, Equal Power and Greater Gender Equality? Zooming into the Boardroom of Companies Bound by the Portuguese Gender Quota Law" Social Sciences 11, no. 10: 449. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11100449