Business | 16.10.2011
German boardrooms to get more women – one way or another
Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government remains divided about how to ensure that the number of women in Germany's boardrooms is raised.
Just hours before the 30 companies listed on Germany's main share index DAX are to outline their plans for doing so, two key ministers expressed divergent views on the issue in the weekend papers.
Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen threatened to impose hard legal quotas for women in top management positions.
"If the DAX-listed companies continue not to do anything at the top level, we need legislation," von der Leyen told the Sunday paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "We've heard enough lip service."
Von der Leyen failed in an attempt at the start of this year to introduce a 30-percent quota.
The flexible variant
Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schröder, who like von der Leyen belongs to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), called for the introduction of soft quotas.
"The flexible quotas that I envision for executive and supervisory boards would allow companies complete freedom in decision-making and design, while at the same time achieving the greatest degree of legal obligation," Schröder told the business weekly Wirtschaftswoche.
Draft legislation drawn up by her ministry includes the possibility of imposing fines of up to 25,000 euros ($35,000) on companies that fail to comply, according to a report in news magazine Der Spiegel.
All companies listed on the stock exchange would be required to publish figures showing how many men and women they have in their executive and supervisory boards.
Economy Minister Phillip Rösler, who is also chairman of the liberal Free Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition, opposes the quotas.Women hold just 2.2 percent of the seats on German boards
"Today everybody can already declare what quota they want to aim for and reach - and then be judged by that," Rösler said.
Schröder's plan for flexible quotas in particular has been criticized by the opposition.
Renate Künast, the parliamentary party leader of the opposition Greens, accused Schröder of cowering to big business.
"It is unacceptable for companies to be given 10 more years to reach a quota of 10 percent women in boardrooms," Künast said.
On Monday, business executives are to meet with Chancellor Merkel's cabinet to present their plans for raising the number of women in management positions in their companies.
Current figures indicate that there is a lot of room for improvement. Of the 190 seats on the executive boards of the 30 DAX-listed companies, just six are held by women.
Meanwhile, state-owned Deutsche Bahn, which is not listed on the Dax, said on Sunday it plans to have 25 percent women on its staff by 2015. One in five of those should be in leading positions by then, the company said.
Author: Chuck Penfold (dpa, Reuters, epd)
Editor: Nicole Goebel