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Germany

Debate over women executives divides Germany's ruling coalition

Christian Democrat ministers Ursula von der Leyen and Kristina Schröder have suggested legislation to require companies to hire more female executives. Their coalition partner, the Free Democrats, have blasted the idea.

A business woman sitting at a computer

Women remain the exception among Germany's executives

Germany's ruling coalition remains divided over whether there should be new legislation requiring companies to put more women in their boardrooms.

Christian Democrat Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen has put forth a plan that would see 30 percent of executive positions in Germany's large companies filled by women, beginning in 2013.

The voluntary commitment of companies to bring more women into their ranks had "failed miserably," von der Leyen told German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, adding that the government would put forth proposed legislation this year.

Von der Leyen's proposal came after similar suggestions from fellow Christian Democrats. Family Minister Kristina Schröder, also of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has advocated requiring companies to set their own binding goals for increasing their female executive count.

Coalition infighting

Meanwhile, CDU coalition partners the Free Democrats have criticized the proposed quotas. Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger rejected the suggestions, while the party's secretary general, Christian Lindner, said it was "not the duty of politicians to dictate companies' staff policies."

Ursula von der Leyen

Von der Leyen has suggested a boardroom minimum of 30 percent

"A statutory women's quota would be an infringement on private freedom of contract," Lindner added.

Sigmar Gabriel, party leader of the center-left Social Democrat Party, took the opposite stance, criticizing the CDU's plans as not going far enough - and calling for a 40-percent minimum of female executives on German supervisory boards, to take immediate effect.

France passes law

The debate came after France's parliament passed legislation on January 13 requiring at least 40 percent of executive positions be filled by women in six years' time.

Women only accounted for 3.2 percent of executives in Germany's 200 biggest companies, according to a 2010 report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

Author: David Levitz (AFP, ots, Reuters)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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