Government seeks boardroom gender quota only in 2020 | News | DW | 15.04.2013
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Government seeks boardroom gender quota only in 2020

Politicians within Chancellor Angela Merkel's government have suggested delaying talks on a minimum quota for female executives in companies. A lower-house debate and vote set for Thursday had presented a dilemma.

Leading parliamentarians in the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Monday proposed introducing a new item into the ruling Christian Democrats' (CDU) manifesto for this year's federal election. The deputy party chair, Julia Klöckner, said the CDU should promise a legally-enforced quota calling on publicly-traded companies to have women hold a minimum of 30 percent of the seats on their supervisory boards, starting in 2020.

This measure might persuade members of the governing coalition to vote against another proposal due to reach the Bundestag on Thursday.

The upper house of parliament, where the opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party outnumber the federal coalition, had passed a draft law last September that would enshrine a quota of 40 percent. Merkel's government was hoping its politicians would oppose this measure, but around two dozen were reportedly considering supporting the law - enough to tip the balance in the Bundestag.

The CDU's secretary general, Hermann Gröhe, called for unity in Thursday's vote, saying the government needed to demonstrate "that we can act with unity an in a manner befitting a ruling coalition" ahead of September's federal elections.

Dictating the election-year agenda

Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen is perhaps the most prominent government advocate for a quota. German news agency DPA on Monday reported that she was considering this new proposal, citing "informed circles."

Chancellor Merkel has until now resisted the idea of a legally binding quota, saying the private sector should make such changes organically - although she also said in a speech earlier this year that the slow progress made by German companies was disenchanting.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Germany ranks poorly in terms of gender equality, especially where company boardrooms are concerned. The OECD estimated that only around 10-15 percent of supervisory board positions in Germany were held by women.

The opposition in the upper house has pushed through several uncomfortable legislative issues in recent months, presumably with one eye on the polls. Debates on equal tax rights for gay couples and a minimum hourly wage of 8.5 euros ($11.12) were both handed across to the Bundestag on the same day last month. Assuming it acts in lock-step in the lower house, the ruling coalition is left with the choice of either passing such measures or rejecting them, providing an election talking point in either eventuality. Monday's proposal seemed to seek a third way.

msh/slk (AFP, epd, dpa)