Germany agrees women quotas for company boards


Germany will make it compulsory for most listed and cooperative companies to have at least one woman on their boards after representatives of the ruling conservative and Social Democrat (SPD) parties reached agreement on the long-sought measure.

Under the deal, as soon as a company has more than three board members, at least one must be a woman. The move is likely to be modest in impact, however, since much larger boards will also be obliged to have only one woman.

The measure has long been a demand of the centre-left SPD, but Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats were more sceptical of the measure, even though the Chancellor has herself criticised companies for doing too little to appoint woman leaders.

The SPD, lagging in polls ahead of next year’s national election, is keen to show that its more progressive and socially liberal voters have been well served by a coalition that many of them opposed.

Social Democrat Family Minister Franziska Giffey called the agreement, published on Friday by the ministries concerned, a “historic breakthrough”, while her party ally, Finance Minister and Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz also hailed the agreement.

“Some things last far too long, but finally we have got somewhere in the quota dispute with the Christian Democrats,” he wrote on Twitter.

Elsewhere in the economy, the impact may be larger: 30% of the members of government-owned companies’ supervisory boards must be women. Their executive boards, and those of chartered companies like health insurance funds must also have a minimum number of women members.

A survey by the DIW think tank last year found that around 30% of supervisory board members of the 30 largest German listed companies were women, but that growth had stagnated. On the executive boards of the largest 100 companies, the share of women was just 10%.

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