No progress on women’s quota – too few women on management boards

No progress on women's quota - too few women on management boards

The statutory women’s quota is effective – but only where it applies. According to the new "female manager barometer according to the german institute for economic research (DIW), the proportion of top female staff in the supervisory boards of major companies in germany has risen to an average of 30 percent. At the end of 2017, two-thirds of the companies concerned had met the legal requirement to fill 30 percent or more of their seats with women, according to the study presented in berlin on wednesday.

Signal effect for management bodies

However, the authors were unable to identify any signal effect on other management bodies. Where no quota applies – on boards of directors and management boards – there is a standstill in the appointment or promotion of women.

Parental allowance plus a resounding success: but only high earners benefit?

The statutory quota has applied since 2016 to companies listed on the stock exchange and subject to co-determination. 105 companies were subject to this regulation at the time of the study. On average, women make up 30 percent of supervisory boards, although not all of them meet this requirement.

None of the companies has a supervisory board entirely without female representatives – among the top 200 companies in germany, this still applies to 7.6 percent. The law stipulates that the gender quota must be taken into account when making new appointments to supervisory boards. If the company does not appoint a woman, one chair must remain empty.

Highest proportion of women on boards

The quota for supervisory and management ratios is also met by companies with federal shareholdings. This is also where the proportion of women on boards of directors and executive boards is highest. At the end of 2017, it stood at just under 18 percent, an increase of 2.4 percentage points. In the companies to which the quota applies in the supervisory board, however, it was only eight percent in the other management bodies. In certain groups of companies, including insurance companies, the proportion of women on management boards has actually declined.

The quota is working, was the assessment of research director elke holst. But the truth is also that without pressure and the threat of sanctions, almost nothing would progress. The DIW appealed to companies to build up a pool of suitable female candidates for other executive bodies as well. Otherwise, it would be up to the politicians to tighten up the regulations for women on boards of directors and executive boards, which have so far been based on voluntariness.

Federal family minister katarina barley (SPD) had already threatened this last year. "It is simply not acceptable for companies to set themselves a target of zero for the proportion of women on management boards in the long term", she said in berlin on wednesday. She expects companies to live up to their social responsibility. "If nothing changes here, there will be a need for action in my view."

Fighting gender stereotypes

The DIW researchers consider the fight against gender stereotypes and political measures to promote women to be at least as important. Holst said that to this day, the idea of how a manager should be and work is defined by male images.

Family policy measures of the past years are buried: the parental allowance with the paternity leave months leads to a change in social norms, said study co-author katharina wrohlich. It is currently paid for 14 months if the father takes at least two months of parental leave. The DIW study suggests extending paternity leave. Wrohlich referred to iceland, where the 15 months of parental leave are divided into thirds – five months for each partner, the remaining five divided between them.

With 43 percent women on the decision-making boards of major companies, iceland is one of the leaders in europe, along with france, in the appointment of top female executives. Germany ranks fifth in this statistic with 32 percent.

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