Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel may head the European Union’s largest economy but back home it’s agreed upon that women are under-represented in the country’s business and financial elite. That could soon change. The country is expected to pass by year’s end a law that states that all publicly traded companies must have at least 30% of the members on their non-executive boards be women by 2016 — and that starting 2015, major companies must set their own binding goals for increasing the number of women on their supervisory boards, their management boards and their executive floors.
The measure, if approved, will be a big shift: Merkel’s government has been skeptical of corporate gender quotas. The law is expected to apply to about 110 listed companies on the German stock exchange DAX. Among the 30 largest companies on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index, where women occupied about 22% supervisory board seats and around 6% of executive board seats at the end of 2013, according to the German Institute for Economic Research.
In a press conference in Berlin, Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig said that “We must end the systematic discrimination against women”; she has been the principal promoter of greater equality in the workplace within the current government. Should the nation’s legislature heed her, Germany will follow other European countries: the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Belgium. Which suggests that gender quotas are on the road to support by a greater European consensus.