“Qualified workers are leaving regions – or aren't even moving to regions in the first place – if they can't work and have decent life with their partner and children,” she told business daily Handelsblatt.
Von der Leyen said some German companies had made family policy a priority, but far too many were still lagging behind.
“The nicest kindergarten and the best all-day school are useless when an employer considers children a hassle and doesn't typically see mothers as worth promoting,” she said, adding that firms should consider allowing parents to have flexible working times and company daycare.
Von der Leyen said it was crucial to convince firms that both mothers and fathers were an irreplaceable part of the German workforce. She said the growing numbers of German fathers who had chosen to take paternity leave were playing a decisive role in changing attitudes in the corporate world.
“They've started a trend that can no longer be stopped,” she told the paper.