Graciela Llaneza heads the Private Equity practice at Hogan Lovells’ Madrid office and is renowned for her work in private equity and M&A. Graciela has a solid track record in advising both financial investors on domestic and cross-border transactions as well as Spanish and international companies on M&A transactions generally and in specific areas including sectors such as financial services, consumer, healthcare and energy.
Graciela completed a degree in Law and Economics (Hons) at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, ICADE Madrid and started her career at the Spanish law firm Cuatrecasas. She joined Hogan Lovells in 2004 and became a partner in 2009. Graciela is ranked in all of the major professional directories. Graciela has been recognised by numerous leading legal publications, including: Latinvex as one of the Top 100 Female Lawyers, 2016 for her expertise in Latin America; Chambers Europe and Chambers Global also recognise her for her expertise in corporate M&A and private equity.
Her strong commitment to diversity and women’s issues motivated her to found the Spanish Female Executives and Board of Directors Association EJE&CON, where she currently serves as a member of the Board and General Counsel. The association’s aim is to promote and increase the presence of women in executive, senior management, and board positions in Spain.
“Equality is necessary to prevent the loss of talent” states Graciela Llaneza.
The Spanish Female Executives and Board of Directors Association EJE&CON: How did the EJE&CON initiative emerge and what are their core goals?
The Spanish Female Executives and Board of Directors Association EJE&CON was established in May 2015 as the initiative of 110 women executives who had previously participated in an executive programme called “Promociona“, aimed at providing leadership tools for women at senior management level. We all experienced similar problems and we wanted to help other women and ultimately promote female leadership and development at all levels. However, we realised that these changes would not be possible if we did not get men involved.
This initial programme was launched by the Spanish and Norwegian governments and was supported by the Spanish Employers’ Association CEOE, as well as the European business school ESADE. The programme comprised of mentoring and coaching activities, and was followed by three other editions. Nowadays it continues to be implemented and is currently in its fourth edition.
EJE&CON was formed on the basis of this initial project prompted by our personal involvement and efforts to broaden the visibility and talent of women in senior leadership roles alongside their access to boards of directors. In October 2015, her Majesty the Queen Letizia of Spain received board members of EJE&COM at Zarzuela Palace.
In order to achieve our goals, we want to be mentors and serve as a platform for other female professionals who want to progress in their careers and attain senior management roles within the Spanish business landscape. For this purpose, all the association’s members want to ensure professional development and visibility of those women, paying close attention to the principle of equal opportunities.
How is EJE&CON structured internally with regards to its committees and their functions?
The association was set up with a firm aim of being inclusive under the basis of the continuous incorporation of new women executives, based on their proven solid experience and professional career. Likewise, we want to move forward incorporating talented men as part of the association. Our main goal is to achieve a common horizon by encouraging the selection of the best talent.
EJE&CON’s day-to-day management is carried out by its board, comprised of a Chair, Nerea Torres, a Treasurer, Rosa Allegue, and I acting as General Counsel alongside Cristina Ortiz, who is also member of my team at Hogan Lovells, and acts as Vice-secretary. The development of the specific initiatives and programmes is approved by the board of directors and takes place within EJE&CON’s committees. Each committee is composed by a number of EJE&CON members that bring expertise and have interest in a specific area of work. Moreover, each committee is managed by one or more Vice-Chairs who are part of the board.The Digital Innovation Committee, the Branding and Communications Committee and the Professional Development Committee are just some examples of the wide range of committees that are part of EJE&CON. Any important and relevant decisions are discussed and approved in a General Members’ Meeting, where all EJE&CON’s members meet together at least once a year.
How many women have become members of the association thus far? What type of initiatives are being carrying out?
Currently we have over 250 executive members, with an increased number of men. As part of our initiatives for instance, we run events tackling business and technology matters, among others, and collaborate in other activities towards fostering women leadership in the engineering sector. In this regard, we are running a mentoring programme with women from the engineering arena, in order to prepare them to be leaders in the sector.
EJE&CON is also very much involved in international gender diversity programmes. We are currently collaborating with UN Women in the development of the UN initiative “HeforShe” in Spain, with the purpose of speeding up the pursued cultural gender diversity change.
Our value contribution focuses on being a think tank, a high-level gathering place and a talent pool for senior management positions and board of directors. Moreover, our aim is to promote female leadership and presence in the digital spectrum. This is precisely why we have set up programmes from school level up to university and company levels – because we believe that it is of paramount importance to identify talent in different roles.
By way of example, at school level, we have implemented an awareness programme with the purpose of getting EJE&CON members to attend different schools and speak up about their personal experience, so that boys and girls can have female role models in top management positions, not only just male role models.
A personal reflection: what results do you expect in terms of gender equity and female leadership in the upcoming years in Spain?
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the female employment rate in Spain is 54.3% against 60.4% in Europe. Spain is not the worst example, but we are not at the forefront either. Incorporating women in full equality would allow companies to retain the female talent that is currently being wasted. The result of this would be materialised in an increase on competitiveness and wealth of our companies and, hence, of our country.
As of today, women’s representation in boards of directors in Spain is lower than 20% and lower than 8% in senior management positions. This statistic places Spain below other European countries such as Iceland, Norway and France, which are ahead in the setting up of diversity policies.
I personally believe that this gender imbalance is influenced by a deeply-rooted cultural and social awareness problem that needs to be transformed. We all need to be eager to spread the message to those who are by our side because the sum of many little efforts will result in great outcomes and change is possible.
Do you feel gender diversity sits at the forefront of law firms and companies’ agenda?
It certainly should. The problem Spanish law firms are facing is that we take on many newly-graduated female lawyers, but as women move forward in their professional career development the percentage of women, and in particular women partners, is significantly reduced. I think we cannot afford this loss of talent.
At Hogan Lovells, we strongly believe that the combination of different cultures and viewpoints is an asset when it comes to finding creative solutions to complex problems. The firm’s unique mindset allows us to provide better advice to our clients. Hogan Lovells actively promotes diversity and favours the promotion and development of our professionals in an inclusive and global working environment. Our Global Diversity and Inclusion Committee, along with a number of 10 regional diversity teams throughout the world, are embracing fundamental change by embedding diversity and inclusion into everything we do. For example, we have conducted mandatory unconscious bias training, and our global agile working policy provides flexibility not just for working parents but also for caregivers. Another example of our commitment to diversity is the pro-bono advice that Hogan Lovells provides to EJE&CON, as well as the additional support in an array of legal matters.
Have you seen a real commitment from companies and law firms in Spain to bridge the salary gap still existing between women and men?
In accordance with an annual report published by Davos (The Global Gender Gap Report 2015), women earn today what men earned in 2006. It is a forceful fact, and the worst part of it is that this report comes to the conclusion that, at the current rate, we would need 118 years to close this gap.
However, when it comes to law firms in Spain I do not think there is a gender payment gap. The big issue for law firms is the lack of female lawyers at top professional levels of the firm. Although the number of female partners has increased in recent years in Spain, we still need to make significant progress. At Hogan Lovells our target is to achieve a 30% share of female partners by 2022.