The poll result casts a shadow over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s assurance that German companies are on notice over the paltry number of women in executive positions – a promise Merkel gave this week when she rejected calls for a firm quota.
The poll, taken by the Forsa surveying firm and published in business daily Handelsblatt, found that 52 percent of Germans believed state intervention would be necessary to raise the proportion of women in executive positions. These people did not believe companies could themselves establish rules to promote a satisfactory proportion of women.
By comparison, 42 percent believed that companies could manage by themselves to improve the representation of women on boards.
A third of respondents thought women should make up half of executives, and another quarter believed they should make up a third.
Some 71 percent said they believed the reason there are so few women in top jobs is that the leadership culture in German firms is simply too male-dominated. Exactly two thirds believed the clash between family and work was a factor. Only 39 believed that women did not strive hard enough for executive jobs.
The issue divided Germany this week after Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Family Minister Kristina Schröder publicly disagreed on whether the government should introduce a mandatory quota of 30 percent.
Generally, the business community has expressed opposition to a mandatory quota.
“I’m pleased that the Chancellor has said that she does not want a legal quota for women,” said Deutsche Bank boss Josef Ackermann, according to Handelsblatt.
Though Deutsche Bank has an all-male executive committee, he told the paper there should be more women in executive positions, adding that they made company boards “more colourful and beautiful.”
A recent survey by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), found that just 2.2 percent of leadership positions at Germany’s top 100 companies are women – only 11 out of 490.
Women executives are also divided. Simone Bagel-Trah, who sits on the board of Henkel – the firm behind Persil washing powder and Schwarzkopf shampoo – also said she was opposed to the quota, telling Handelsblatt she feared successful women would be dismissed as merely “quota women.”
But Margarete Haase, boss of engine manufacturer Deutz, said she believes a quota is necessary.
Even within women’s groups there is division, though. Emma, the women’s magazine founded by Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s best known feminist, has commentators who have spoken out against a quota.