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Germany unveils sweeping gender equality plan

July 8, 2020

The federal government has approved a new strategy for fighting gender inequality, the first of its kind in Germany. The 9-part plan aims to reduce the gender pay gap and require more women in leadership positions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Family Minister Franziska Giffey pose with a campaign poster for the government's equality policy 'Strong for the Future' prior to a presentation of the new policy
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Sohn

Germany's federal cabinet on Wednesday adopted a national strategy for equality between women and men, the first strategy plan on gender equality to be implemented on a federal level in Germany.

At a press conference in Berlin, Family Minister Franziska Giffey laid out the 9-part plan, coined "Strong for the Future."

"[The strategy] is a joint commitment by the German government to equality. And all departments have been actively involved. Only in this way can we ensure that the issue of equality is no longer seen as an issue only for the Women’s Ministry, but that it is an issue for all ministries," Giffey said in the conference. 

The minister said it had taken "decades" for the entire cabinet to commit itself to this and the topic was no longer left to the Family Ministry alone. 

Read more: Opinion: German bureaucracy discriminates against women

On Tuesday, lawmakers had agreed on the establishment of a federal foundation for gender equality that would be responsible for implementing a plan to be agreed upon by the coalition government.

"Article 3 of the Basic Law states that the state shall promote the actual equality of women and men," Giffey told the daily Rheinische Post ahead of the announcement. 

Reducing the pay gap

Giffey's plan consists of nine gender equality goals that, once approved, are to be backed by targeted legislation in each of Germany's federal ministries.

Objectives include a reduction of the pay and pension gap between men and women and a goal of improving career opportunities for women to be on par with those of men.

To this end, Giffey has included a stipulation that would increase the number of women on executive boards by requiring the inclusion of at least woman on boards made up of at least four members.

The strategy also aims to expand a law that requires women to make up 30% of supervisory boards so that the rule would apply to 600 companies instead of the current 105.

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Restoring balance

Responding to a question from DW, Giffey welcomed the news that Germany's conservative CDU party plans to introduce a quota for female candidates and internal party positions.

"Here you always immediately get the discussion of whether lots of unqualified women will have to be hired …I can never accept that," Giffey said. "When companies tell me, 'Look, we're a technical company. We don't have any qualified women,' I always say, 'They were there in high school, at university. Where'd they all go?'"

"And we can't accept that," Giffey continued.  "We're not talking about putting unqualified people in leadership positions. We're talking about personal performance and ability, which of course goes for all people. But we're also talking about the fact that you can't say we only have less than 10% of women that are suitable, effective, and competent. I can't accept that. There we have to have a second look."

kp/rs (AFP,dpa)

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