“We are ending board rooms where there are no women in big companies,” said Francisco Kifi, the minister for women and families, describing the decision as “historic progress”.
But business lobby groups pushed the decision back. The German Confederation of Indian Industry (PTI), which represents 40 trade groups, said it supported efforts to encourage the appointment of women to leadership positions, but that a consistent board allocation was “a major intervention in entrepreneurial freedom”.
“The trend of trying to fix socio-political issues through the economy and institutions should not change the rule in any way,” BDI executive committee member Iris Blogger said in a statement. “Politicians need to be more courageous in tackling the reasons why women are so underrepresented on corporate boards,” she added, pointing to the need to expand the digital infrastructure to “balance work and family life for all.”
Blazer said companies should be provided with “as much as possible” in line with the new measures and be protected against sanctions that are “practically impossible” to meet needs.
Germany lags behind many major economies in terms of the number of senior executive positions held by women. According to the nonprofit Swedish-German Albright Foundation, women make up just 12.8% of the board of directors of Germany’s 30 largest listed companies.
By comparison, 28.6% of senior leadership positions in the top companies in the United States are held by women, 24.9% in Sweden, 24.5% in the UK and 22.2% in France.
According to Almentinger, the decision to introduce a quota follows the decades-long campaign by women in Germany on issues related to gender equality in the workplace. “Thanks to the tireless efforts and pressure of many women and networks when leading conservatives began to support reform,” she told CNN Business.
Over the past few months, women from business, civil society, academia and the arts, including social media and the hashtag #jetztreichts and the hashtag #ichwill, have been engaged in a concerted campaign to present legislation, which is enough and I like.
“Despite our success, we still have a lot to do,” Almentinger said, pointing to the need to further expand diversity in governing bodies and to address structural inequalities in the tax system. “The gender issue is only an important dimension,” he added.
In 2015, Germany approved a mandatory quota for oversight boards, and as a result, 36% of non-executive positions in large corporations are now held by women, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality. Under the country’s corporate governance system, oversight boards oversee management boards, but do not make decisions related to day-to-day operations.
Five EU countries, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and Portugal, have adopted mandatory gender quotas for the boards of large listed companies.
Norway was the first country in the world to legalize gender quotas for corporate boards, which required women to fill 40% of board seats.
– Stephanie Halas and Mark Thompson contributed to the reportg.