Germany’s coalition government have announced they will introduce a mandatory quota for the number of women working as executives in the country’s listed companies, in a decision hailed as a “historic” step towards gender equality in German boardrooms.
The decision requires management boards with more than three members to include at least one woman, reversing a voluntary system critics argue has failed to achieve the required shift towards gender equality.
The deal agreed on Friday evening by the coalition of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats has been described as a historic breakthrough by Franziska Giffey, Germany’s federal minister for women.
“We are putting an end to women-free boardrooms in large companies,” she said.
“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 decision comes after recent research found the representation of women in the management of German companies was lagging behind peers in rival major economies.
The research found that women make up 12.8 per cent of the management boards of the 30 largest German companies listed on the blue-chip Dax index, according to a survey by the AllBright foundation conducted in September. The figure compares with 28.6 per cent in the US and 24.5 per cent in the UK.
“We are giving skilled and motivated women the opportunities they deserve,” said Christine Lambrecht, justice minister. “This is a big success for women in Germany which at the same time offers a big chance for society and the companies themselves.”
It has been said, however, that forcing large companies to act is likely to anger some in German business, who have been arguing that the move is unjustified interference in private enterprise.
The coalition deal will also mean a minimum quota of 30 per cent of women will be represented on supervisory boards for companies where the federal government holds a majority shareholding.
A quota for women will also be introduced for “corporations under public law”, such as health insurance companies.