Germany’s government will instate a mandatory quota for the number of women working as senior management in the country’s listed companies, requiring that boards with more than three members include at least one woman.
The deal, agreed upon on Friday, comes five years after a system of voluntary commitments to gender equality failed to result in any change.
While advocates celebrated the move, business groups are “dismayed,” saying that mandating a certain number of women interferes with the internal affairs of companies, and that, according to the Financial Times, “there was a dearth of suitable female candidates for senior management roles.”
Women make up only 12.8 percent of the management boards of Germany’s 30 largest listed companies. In contrast, women have been hired for 28.6 percent of the senior leadership roles at leading companies in the United States, 24.9 percent in Sweden, 24.5 percent in Britain and 22.2 percent in France.
And Germany’s gender disparity is only getting worse: Research has found that the number of women in senior executive positions in the country fell to 23 at the beginning of September, compared to 29 a year before. Not a single one of Germany’s biggest companies are led by women.
“We are giving skilled and motivated women the opportunities they deserve,” said Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht. “This is a big success for women in Germany which at the same time offers a big chance for society and the companies themselves.”
Norway was the first country in the world to enact gender quotas for corporate boards, requiring that women fill 40 percent of board seats. Since then, five EU countries—Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and Portugal—have adopted mandatory quotas for the boards of large listed companies.