Top jobs in the economy are still mostly filled with men. The law aims to bring more female leaders to the top.
Pure men's clubs at the top of large companies should soon be a thing of the past in Germany. That is the aim of the “second management positions law” of the grand coalition, which was discussed for the first time in the German Bundestag on Thursday. Accordingly, women must be given greater consideration in future when new board members are appointed.
Representatives of the governing parties spoke of a big step. Criticism came from the opposition: the plans for the left and the Greens do not go far enough. AfD and FDP criticized interventions in entrepreneurial freedom.
The proportion of women on executive boards is now just over ten percent, said German Family Minister Franziska Giffey (SPD). That is neither up to date nor fair and shamefully small in international comparison. Fixed guidelines are needed, because unfortunately nothing or far too little is done voluntarily. The German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) spoke on Thursday of a “milestone for actual equality between men and women”.
Minimum participation instead of quota
Specifically, the law provides that in listed companies with equal participation and with more than three management boards, at least one woman must sit on the management board. This must be taken into account when filling new posts. Even if there is often talk of a quota for women, this is not a quota regulation, as there are no percentage requirements, but a requirement for a minimum participation.
For companies with a majority stake by the federal government, the law provides for stricter rules: In general, if there are more than two members of the management team, there should be at least one woman.
A “First Management Positions Act” has been in place since 2015. It applies to supervisory boards. Companies of a certain size – usually more than 2,000 employees – must therefore fill vacant positions on the control committee with women until at least 30 percent is reached. Where the quota applies, the proportion of women is now more than 35 percent.
With the law for board members, there should now be movement at the level of top management positions. After the first reading, the draft will now be discussed in the Bundestag committees. It is still unclear when a final vote will take place. The Federal Council still has to deal with it.
Criticism came from the opposition. The AfD accused the coalition of trying to enforce ideological ideas with “state dirigism”. The FDP spoke of interference in entrepreneurial freedom and instead called for better framework conditions for the compatibility of work and family, even in high positions.
Left and Greens criticized, however, that the draft does not go far enough and affects too few companies. Both parties demanded real quotas for board appointments. “This is not progress. This is symbolic politics,” said the Green MP Ulle Schauws.
The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) welcomed the project in principle, but also called for further measures. “Even if we would like to have more courage to take the quota – with this bill, the glass ceiling will finally be torn down further,” said Deputy DGB Chairman Elke Hannack of the German Press Agency.
The organization Fidar (women on supervisory boards), which has been campaigning for the topic for years, made a similar statement: “The minimum participation requirement on the board is another milestone on the way to equal participation,” said Fidar President Monika Schulz-Strelow of the dpa . At the same time, she criticized the fact that it only applies to a few companies and only to new appointments.
According to the organization, which constantly monitors the development of the filling of supervisory board and executive board positions, the new regulation currently includes 67 listed companies with equal co-determination. 26 of them have not yet had a woman on the board.
The CDU MP Nadine Schön stretched the bow a little further in the debate. The law alone does not solve the problem. It's about cultural and structural changes. “And that means: Fight against the Thomas principle”. The term appears again and again in the debate about “men's clubs” in management. The idea behind this is that if there are many similarly old men with similar names and similar personal backgrounds on management boards, they also open career paths to similar men.