German listed companies will be granted no exceptions to a 30 percent women’s quota for supervisory boards by 2016, said Manuela Schwesig, the minister responsible for drafting the legislation.
Schwesig, 39, a Social Democrat and the youngest member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third-term cabinet, dismissed industry pleas for exemptions in fields that are a traditional preserve of men, such as metal-working or engineering.
“It’s an argument often advanced that certain sectors don’t have enough women available to fill the supervisory-board posts,” Schwesig said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions. “I don’t buy it.”
Schwesig’s refusal to consider exemptions risks further conflict with industry over the scope of the government’s plans to redress gender imbalances in German boardrooms. She also raised the hackles of Merkel’s Christian Democrats by proposing that parents should be eligible for a 32-hour working week with taxpayers making up some of the loss in income.
That proposal, not covered by the coalition accord signed in December, drew a rebuke from Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Jan. 10, who lauded the intention to ease life for working parents while saying that “we have to be careful not to overdo it.” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, described her proposal as a “personal contribution to the debate.”
Schwesig, who was a minister in Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania until SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel called her into the federal cabinet last month, enjoys broader government support for getting more women into top management.
Merkel, Germany’s first woman chancellor, told lower-house lawmakers today that the government will press ahead with legislation because non-binding targets for companies hadn’t worked.
Schwesig said there was more resistance among German companies to quotas for women than in France, where policy makers have agreed on a binding target of 40 percent of board seats.
Under the German legislation, which requires parliamentary approval, listed companies with more than 2,000 employees will be required to place women in 30 percent of supervisory-board seats that become vacant from 2016, a requirement that will affect about 120 firms, Schwesig said.
Separate legislation to come into force next year will require a further 1,577 companies to set “binding targets” for women on executive boards and in top management posts as well as on supervisory boards, she said.
A study by the DIW economic institute released on Jan. 16 found that about 15 percent of the supervisory boards of Germany’s top 200 companies were occupied by women last year, an increase of 2 percentage points since 2012, and about 4 percent of seats on executive boards.
“It was hard work to clear the way for rules in Germany,” said Schwesig.
–Editors: Alan Crawford, Tony Czuczka