German firms set goals for more women in management

Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:56pm EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's 30 top companies set voluntary targets on Monday to raise the number of women in leadership positions, in the hope of averting legally imposed quotas as a campaign to smash the glass ceiling gains momentum.

While the political leader of Europe's largest economy is a woman, corporate management is still heavily dominated by men. There was not a single woman on the management board of a blue-chip firm until 2008, and today only 3.7 percent of top German managers are female.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet is at odds over whether legislation is the right tool to help women penetrate the commanding heights of business. Both Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schroeder and Merkel have so far rejected the idea of setting a legal quota.

Schroeder welcomed Monday's voluntary targets as serious progress, but Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen called them "insufficient" and suggested a legal quota may be necessary.

Some other European countries, such as Norway, France and Spain, require top listed companies by law to ensure at least a third of top management is female.

Germany's blue-chip companies, listed on the DAX index, published striking data on the representation of women at leadership levels as well as the new targets.

"We will let ourselves be publicly assessed year by year on what we have actually achieved," said BMW's personnel manager Harald Krueger, on behalf of firms in the DAX index.

In March, Germany's blue-chip companies agreed to set voluntary targets to boost the number of women at management levels and on Monday, they published their concrete aims, varying from company to company.   Continued...