Germany establishes ‘step’ gender quota for company boards


Germany decided on Friday to ensure that women are represented in the top echelons of some of Europe’s largest publicly traded companies, advancing a measure in parliament that sets a quota for women on boards.

Under the proposal approved by Parliament, state-owned enterprises in Germany with four or more board members will need to have a woman on the board, and government-controlled companies with boards of three or more members will also need to have a woman.

The measure is expected to receive final adoption by Germany’s upper house later this summer. Companies will be subject to financial penalties if they do not comply with the new law.

“Highly skilled women still too often run into glass ceilings,” Justice and Family Affairs Minister Christine Lambrecht said. “This is an important step for women in Germany and at the same time a great opportunity for society and businesses. “

The government has said 66 private sector companies, 21 of which still do not have women on their boards, will be affected by the new rules. The law provides leave for members of the board of directors who choose to take leave, whether maternity or parental leave, or due to illness or to care for family members.

By adopting the proposal, Germany is building on a 2015 law requiring some of Europe’s largest companies to give 30% of management seats to women.

“We have already seen with the quota for supervisory boards introduced in 2015, the regulation of quotas has an effect,” said Ms Lambrecht. “The new regulations will have an impact on the whole economy.”

In anticipation of new legislation being passed by parliament, six German companies, including sportswear maker Adidas and pharmaceutical company Bayer, appointed women to their boards before the law was passed. , according to a recent study by FidAR, an initiative advocating for more women on counseling. boards. More than half of the country’s large listed companies, according to the report, still do not have women on their boards.

“Women have a lot of potential that neither German companies nor our society can do without,” former Family Minister Franziska Giffey said in November, before the bill reached parliament.

According to a 2020 survey by the AllBright Foundation, women occupy just 12.8% of seats on the boards of directors of the 30 largest companies in the German DAX index.

“It’s surprising that Germany is such a superpower when you look at these numbers,” said Janina Kugel, who was director of human resources and a member of the Siemens board for five years. “The question is: will there remain a superpower if things don’t change in many ways, but also in diversity? I would doubt it. “

For Ms Kugel, the new law is an important signal, but not enough. The tie, she says, is 50 percent.

As far as Simone Menne can remember, the number of women in leadership positions has been more or less the same, she said in an interview in January.

The proposal approved by the German parliament is “kind of a wake-up call for companies and male senior executives to really consider changing their behavior,” said Ms Menne, former chief financial officer of Lufthansa’s board and member. current board of directors of Lufthansa. directors of BMW and Deutsche Post.

“It’s a myth that there aren’t enough qualified women,” she said. “We are not pushing men aside; it’s the opposite, we have to work together.

Melissa Eddy contributed from Berlin.

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