• Germany's news in English

Ministers at odds over jobs quota for women

The Local · 31 Jan 2011, 17:18

Published: 31 Jan 2011 17:18 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The two ministers, who are among the most powerful women in the country, both support a quota but are divided on whether it should be mandated or voluntary. Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, steered clear of taking a firm position.

Von der Leyen said an enforced quota that would require German companies to have women in 30 percent of all executive positions was long overdue.

“A time line for building a legal framework must be created this year,” von der Leyen, of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, told broadcaster NDR.

“In terms of the number of women occupying executive positions, Germany is currently at the same level as India and behind Russia, behind Brazil, behind China. In other words, the time has come for things to change in our country, too.”

That put her at odds with fellow CDU member Schröder, who favours allowing companies the flexibility to set their own quotas, a position also maintained by junior coalition partners the pro-business Free Democratic Party.

Schröder told broadcaster ARD on Monday: “I would like a law, but not one that attempts to cover every corporation from the steel industry to the media and communications in one fell swoop. I want a law that distinguishes between different corporations. That’s why I recommend a flexible quota that allows each corporation to set its own standards.”

Specifically, Schröder said she wanted to “legally require corporations to establish their own quotas and achieve them within two years. To this point, companies have been free to leave quotas unfulfilled, since they are not stipulated by law.”

With a legal framework for quotas, corporations would be “under pressure to justify their practices from now on,” Schröder said.

Chancellor Merkel, for her part, has stayed mostly silent on the debate, calling it a “normal discussion process.”

Manuela Schwesig, deputy chair of the centre-left opposition Social Democratic Party, called for a quota for the number of women on executive boards of at least 40 percent.

“We want it now. We have been waiting for ten years,” she told ARD, referring to the voluntary quotas companies have adhered to for the past decade. “Of the 200 largest corporations in Germany, only 3 percent have women in executive roles. That really is medieval.”

Schwesig appealed to von der Leyen to act swiftly if she is serious about establishing a quota of 30 percent.

Von der Leyen has “blocked the quota for the past five years,” Schwesig said. “I wonder about it. She now appears to be moving in the opposite direction. We will see how serious she really is.”

In light of the number of highly-educated women in the work force, von der Leyen estimates that a quota of 30 percent is realistic for most companies, either voluntarily within two years or legally required by 2018.

“What is significant is that this movement is coming from the centre of parliament,” she said. “The women in the CDU have worked on this topic steadily for the past half year, and have produced a step-by-step plan of action.”

The FDP has dismissed the idea of a nation-wide quota of female executives at the country’s largest firms.

“In our view, there is no pressing need for action,” the party’s general secretary Christian Lindner said Monday in Berlin.

Most large corporations plan to reorganize their executive boards by 2013. This process should be delayed, according to Lindner, so decisions can be made with the “certainty of facts.” For the FDP, a fixed quota would “interfere significantly with the freedom of contracts and the personal politics of corporations.”

Story continues below…

The Federal Association of Human Resources (BPM) deems a fixed quota unnecessary and unrealistic, and advocates self-regulation.

“While in certain companies the goal of having women in 30 percent of executive positions seems possible, other sectors will have trouble achieving even a fraction of that goal, and even that will require committed effort over many years,” said BPM president Joachim Sauer.

The European Commission is also in favour of promoting more women to executive positions.

“I am open to the idea of establishing quotas for women in executive positions at, for example, the large, publicly traded corporations,” the commissioner of domestic markets, Michel Barnier, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung Monday. Barnier said it was not just an issue of fairness, but also something that could lead to more well-balanced decisions.

The federal government plans to make an official recommendation on the quota after a meeting in March with the labour directors of the 30 DAX corporations, while the European Commission plans to make a concrete recommendation in April.

dapd/The Local/adn

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

18:28 January 31, 2011 by William Thirteen
i suggest they fight it out in a Mud Wrestling free-for-all!
18:56 January 31, 2011 by Gretl
"Hold still! You have something...right there."
19:11 January 31, 2011 by toemag
Maybe they should outsource the problem to a foreign gender re-orientated dwarf, just think of all the quotas they'd cover with that one.....

Stupid is what stupid does.
19:59 January 31, 2011 by heathen
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
21:54 January 31, 2011 by Joshontour
Call me old fashioned but I still think a job should be given to the best candidate available, regardless of gender, race, or hyphen.
21:56 January 31, 2011 by Bushdiver
Well, if it turn out to be voluntary you know what the outcome will be.
03:25 February 1, 2011 by Larry Thrash
Equal opportunity doesn't mean equal outcome.
09:25 February 1, 2011 by catjones
Iron my shirt.

It is surprising how many women I've met who feel the status quo is just fine. Not surprising is most of them are married to successful men. Sort of a private Hartz thing.
11:01 February 1, 2011 by CaSimone
3% is poor, taking into account, realistically the intelligence ratio for woman and men are 50/50 no matter where one is in world, which in result means a large part of the executive work force are NOT the best person for the position. Surprisingly counter productive... tsk tsk

However, realistically a strict quota is not the best approach for aside for the obvious reasons due to certain fields &/or certain geographical areas, BUT, there should most certainly be some sort of mandate to ensure fair hiring practices.

The current state affairs obviously due to the apparent gender favoritism... I will be kind to say is out of habit for most German men I have met do appear quite respectful and fair in all other regards to woman in general.

Another less observed reason 30% may not be fair to impose is, though, one can easily assume 30% of woman are intellectually capable of filling the roles, many woman in this range have more "higher" concerns then getting a job as some CEO's helper... they have charity to organize, spiritual developments to enforce in their families... communities to mold.... futures to conspire as they quietly shape their children... most everything with "REAL" purpose does not have a check tied into it at the end of the week. You'd be surprised how many "simple" house wives are MASTER minds of the future. :P
18:35 February 2, 2011 by xx.weirich.xx
I agree with joshontour. I think women shouldn't be discriminated because of gender, but requiring a certain number of women in these high-ranking positions would just lead to a bunch on unqualified women filling them.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd