Germany's Corporate Boards Lag Behind on Women

Monday, November 28, 2011

European countries have been following the lead of Norway and instituting quotas for women on corporate boards. Nele Feldmann says Germany should follow suit and demand more from companies than voluntary promises.

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'Too Soon to Push'

In an article for the German daily newspaper taz.die tageszeitung, Claudia Pinl said that Germany, despite Merkel being at the top of the political heap, is still so far behind other countries on matters pertaining to women that it's too soon to push for a boardroom quota.

While full-time company kindergartens are common in France, she noted that German mothers still struggle to find half-day places for their children. Moreover, German society still tends to label successful women as butch and working mothers as uncaring. Until such issues are changed, she said, these social perceptions of women make our presence unlikely in the ranks of corporate leadership.

But I disagree. Yes, a change of sensibility is needed to loosen up traditional gender roles, but a change within major enterprises can enforce and accompany that. A law to increase the number of women in top positions would create an opportunity for women to build their own networks and break through old-boy networks.

Certainly the demographics are in place.

Women in Germany today, on average, are better educated than male colleagues. Why should they be stuck at earning, on average, 23 percent less than men?

It is sometimes said that women's wages are held back by our chosen fields of study. That might be true for technical jobs but not for managerial posts in big companies. Women and men both ranked business studies as their favorite fields, according to a 2009 federal survey.

The implementation of a corporate board quota for women would be an important sign of the government taking our Constitution seriously.

"Men and women shall have equal rights," says article three of the constitution. "The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist."


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Nele Feldmann is currently doing marketing for Women's eNews' Arabic website.

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Corporate Women Directors International:

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This report confirms my view that having a woman in a top position like Angela Merkel does not translate into gains for women per se.