Skip to main content

Women in Corporate Leadership: A Review of McKinsey’s Women Matter Spain Report

Women in Corporate Leadership: A Review of McKinsey's Women Matter Spain Report

As Pyou, a global Human Resources firm, we are steadfastly dedicated to exploring, understanding, and redressing gender disparities in the corporate sphere. Women constitute an impressive 80% of our Group’s staff, a statistic that reflects our longstanding commitment to gender equity in our hiring policies. These women, forming the majority of our workforce, are afforded the same opportunities as their male colleagues. In alignment with our commitment, we present an examination of the “Women Matter Spain 2023: Women are still far from top corporate leadership positions” report, produced by the esteemed management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. This comprehensive study, focusing on the Iberian Peninsula, offers insights derived from 45 Portuguese and Spanish firms, shedding light on gender equity in corporate leadership.

1. Introduction to McKinsey’s Women Matter Report

McKinsey & Company, a world-renowned management consulting firm, serves as the trusted advisor to leading businesses, governments, and institutions across the globe. Its work spans the private, public, and social sectors, with its broad scale, scope, and knowledge enabling it to address challenges that no one else can.

The “Women Matter Spain 2023” report is a collaborative endeavour helmed by Eduardo Bolio, Antonio de Gregorio, Maria del Mar Martinez Márquez, Dafni Giannikou, Gloria Macias, and Amaia Noguera, all esteemed professionals from McKinsey’s Madrid office.

The McKinsey Women Matter 2023 report delves into the pressing issue of gender disparity in Spain’s uppermost corporate echelons. Although women make up more than half of Spain’s labour force, the representation of women in top leadership positions trails the European average. Women, who value career advancement as much as their male counterparts, find themselves conspicuously underrepresented in the C-suite and senior managerial roles. To illustrate, although women constitute over half of Spain’s labour force, they only fill 22% of executive committee roles, and a mere 16% hold CEO positions. The report strives to unravel the reasons behind these stark disparities and suggest ways to create a more equitable corporate landscape.

2. The Persistence of the Glass Ceiling and the Leaky Pipeline

The report identifies two major impediments to women’s professional advancement: the glass ceiling and the leaky pipeline. The glass ceiling refers to invisible barriers hindering women from ascending to leadership roles, while the leaky pipeline denotes the declining number of women as one ascends the corporate hierarchy. The report presents a grim reality of the glass ceiling and the leaky pipeline in corporate Spain. As women move up the corporate ladder, their representation decreases from 45% at entry-level to 25% at middle management and further dwindles to 16% at the CEO level.

Challenges in Balancing Work and Family Life

The report finds that even when women attain high-ranking positions, they still bear the majority of family and household responsibilities. 39% of top female managers, ranging from CEOs to senior managers, say they are the sole household overseer, compared to only 8% of men. This imbalance is also reflected in work aspirations, with only 36% of women expressing interest in high-responsibility roles compared to 43% of men.

Hesitation to Pursue International Opportunities

Interestingly, the report shows that women are less inclined than men to accept international opportunities. Only 2% of women in senior-management roles partake in international programs, versus 9% of men. Given that 60% of the analysed companies’ CEOs have previous international experience, this could act as another invisible barrier for women seeking general-management positions.

The Report’s Conclusions and Recommendations

Spanish companies have made consistent but slow advancements towards integrating women into high-responsibility roles. McKinsey’s report offers a series of recommendations to accelerate this change through increased company engagement, particularly from leaders and team managers who are essential in implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies:

  • Setting DEI Objectives and KPIs: Establish measurable targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the effectiveness of DEI initiatives, ensuring that they are precisely directed and executed to yield the desired outcomes.
  • Promoting Mentorship and Sponsorship: Provide women access to mentorship and sponsorship relationships with senior leaders, an essential factor in career development. These relationships can be facilitated through formal programs or by training managers and leaders to be effective mentors.
  • Inclusive Environment Training: Train managers to foster an inclusive environment and nurture the next generation of women leaders. This includes training on unconscious biases, managing remote and face-to-face teams, and ensuring team well-being.
  • High Visibility and Feedback: Increase the visibility of gender diversity initiatives and establish a feedback loop to measure their effectiveness and promote their uptake across the workforce.
  • Support for Female Talent Advancement: Facilitate women’s rise to leadership through succession programs, transparency in promotion requirements, and unbiased evaluation criteria.
  • Empowering Women for Leadership: Make a firm commitment to cultivate and grow top women talent, providing targeted management and leadership training, and spotlighting women role models in management positions.
  • Promoting Co-responsibility: Encourage shared responsibilities outside of work, particularly in parenting, to help break down stereotypes. Measures could include promoting a healthy work-life balance with flexible schedules and creating infrastructures that support caregivers, such as on-site childcare.

The primary responsibility for implementing these recommendations lies with companies, but the involvement of men, external and internal alliances, and governmental and non-governmental organisations is also crucial for the advancement of women in the corporate world.


The report lays bare the multifaceted barriers women face on their path to top corporate-leadership positions. It is a powerful reminder for us at Pyou and for all HR professionals to continue working towards gender equity in corporate leadership. Only through persistent efforts in policymaking, gender-stereotype challenging, and creating supportive environments can we hope to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.