Germany’s coalition government will introduce a mandatory quota for the number of women working as senior management in the country’s listed companies, in a move hailed as a “historic” step towards sexual equality in German boardrooms.
In a deal agreed on Friday evening by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their junior partner the Social Democrats, management boards with more than three members must include at least one woman, reversing a voluntary system that critics argue has failed to achieve the required shift towards more gender equality.
Franziska Giffey, Germany’s federal minister for women, said: “This one breakthrough is historic. We are putting an end to women-free boardrooms in large companies. We are setting an example for a sustainable, modern society. We are exploiting all of our country’s potential so that the best in mixed teams can be more successful. Because nothing is done voluntarily and we need guidelines to move forward.”
The move comes after recent research found the representation of women in senior management in German companies was lagging peers in rival major economies.
Women make up 12.8% of the management boards of the 30 largest German companies listed on the blue-chip Dax index, according to a September survey by the Swedish-German AllBright foundation. The figure compares with 28.6% in the US, 24.5% in the UK and 22.2% in France, the study said.
The research also stated that Dax companies are losing women in senior positions, while “the number of Dax companies without a single woman on the board [has increased] from six companies in the previous year to 11 currently”.
However, forcing large companies to act is likely to anger some in German business, who have been arguing that the move is an unjustified interference in private enterprise.
The coalition deal will also compel a minimum quota of 30% of women on supervisory boards for companies where the federal government holds a majority shareholding.
The government added that a further quota would also be introduced for “corporations under public law”, such as health insurance companies and pension and accident insurance institutions as well as the Federal Employment Agency.