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Women still rare in German boardrooms

AFP · 27 Jan 2010, 16:57

Published: 27 Jan 2010 16:57 GMT+01:00

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Chancellor Angela Merkel may run the country but women only make up 2.5 percent of the members of executive boards at the 200 biggest German companies, holding 21 seats out of 833, according to the study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin.

Among the 30 firms listed on the DAX blue-chip index, electronics giant Siemens is the only group to have a woman on its board, it said.

The situation is slightly better on German corporate supervisory boards, with 10 percent of seats held by women. But most represent employees rather than management.

"There will be no change in this trend without binding rules," the study concluded, citing the example of Norway, which mandates that companies must reserve 40 percent of seats on executive boards for women.

In France, parliament last month adopted a similar draft bill requiring the 650 listed companies to offer 40 percent of seats on their executive boards to women within six year of the law's passage.

Story continues below…

Merkel was elected Germany's first female chancellor in 2005. Forbes magazine has named her the world's most powerful woman four years running.

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21:22 February 1, 2010 by JBC
U.S. corporations have developed many initiatives to increase the number of women in senior business leadership positions, but none so aggressive as the Norwegian mandate for 40% of board seats for women. As of 2008, women only make up 15.2% of board seats of Fortune 500 companies (the largest publicly held corporations in the U.S.), according to the most recent study by Catalyst in New York.

These statistics of women on boards, both in Germany and the United States, beg the question: How much of a top priority is diversity in these organization?

Grass-roots, bottom-up diversity initiatives in the U.S. have been the driving force for much of the corporate diversity discussion, and this approach is closely tied to the American rebellious, entrepreneurial business ethos. Can European companies adopt an approach that includes bottom-up efforts from passionate employees who want to help create truly meritocratic work environment?

These are questions around social change. Do European corporations feel responsible to drive this change, or is it in the hands of the European Union and each member state? At JBC, we believe that it is a shared effort, and we work with major corporations to develop strategic diversity initiatives that benefit both employees and the business. And in this economy, companies cannot afford to turn a blind eye to top talent, no matter the gender, nationality, sexual orientation or background of the individual.

David Megathlin

Senior Director ­ Research

JBC ­ Berlin
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