The German government presented on Wednesday (6 January) a bill that plans to introduce at least one woman into the governing bodies of German companies with more than three directors. EURACTIV France reports.
Seventy-three companies would be affected by the rule change, thirty-two of which currently have no women on their boards, according to figures from Germany’s family, senior citizens, women, and youth ministry known as BMFSFJ.
The bill, which has yet to be adopted by Bundestag MPs ahead of elections scheduled for 26 September, also provides for the introduction of a fixed quota of at least 30% women on the boards of directors of companies in which the state is a majority shareholder – which concerns nearly 90 companies such as Deutsche Bahn.
If adopted, the new regulation also fixes 31 December 2025 as the deadline for achieving greater parity in the management bodies of German companies.
‘Quota women’ still stigmatised in Germany
The bill is a “key step to see more women reach positions of responsibility”, said Family Minister and social democrat Franziska Giffey, who presented the text together with her social democrat colleague, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht. “We can show that Germany is on the way to becoming a modern, forward-looking society,” the family minister added.
Giffey is one of 40 German women – top executives, scientists, actresses, athletes and politicians such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – who last November launched the “Ich bin eine Quotenfrau” campaign, which translates to “I am a quota woman”.
The campaign aims to raise public awareness in the country and fight the stigma still attached to the mandatory quota system.
However, the over-representation of men in German companies persists despite an initial law in favour of parity in companies adopted in 2015, according to BMFSFJ figures.
The proportion of women on supervisory boards in Germany is 32.7% in the 190 companies surveyed. The figures for the boards of directors of large companies are even lower: only 12.7% of managers are women (10.5% in companies that have opted for voluntary measures). And 70% of the companies which had set a parity threshold in their boards of directors still have no women executives.
Last November, the family minister tweeted that “quotas work, but voluntary measures don’t”.
That view is shared by Lisi Maier, member of the German Council for Sustainable Development – an advisory board of 15 public figures appointed by the German government. “We see that without quotas, parity does not work, in Germany as elsewhere.” Although FüPoG I – the law on gender parity that came into force in 2015 – will not have closed the gaps, “no other measure has increased the share of women in management to such an extent,” Maier added.
According to Maier, who is also vice-president of the German Women’s Council (Deutscher Frauenrat), the new bill is, therefore, good news, even though 30% of large German companies have still not set minimum standards.
However, she pointed to the health crisis turning out to be a step backwards: “Last summer, it was observed that women were pushed back into their traditional role models and that large companies once again relied on men,” she added.
FüPoG II – the new proposal on gender parity in companies – would be the “logical” answer and a “big step forward” – although, of course, there is always room for improvement, said the vice-president. “Looking at France, we can see that we can do even more. Some of our neighbouring countries already have higher quotas and this is working very well,” she added.
Contrary to the prevailing stigma, a higher proportion of women on steering committees would not only strengthen social and ecological sustainability, but also economic development.
France, a European champion
In France, the Copé-Zimmermann Law effectively imposed parity representation on boards of directors and supervisory boards as early as 2011, with a mandatory 40% quota for women on boards of directors as of 2017.
The result of this legal change: according to the 2020 statistics of the Diversity Barometer on Boards of Directors of the Burgundy School of Business (BSB), is that “gender diversity has become a reality”. The share of women on the boards of directors of companies in the SBF120 (a French stock market index) has reached 45.2% in France – making it the undisputed European champion in terms of parity in corporate governance.