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Quotas roadblock

February 3, 2011

Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to put an end to the bickering over quotas when she finally weighed in saying that, for now, there would be no government requirements for the makeup of companies' management.

silhouette of a woman pointing to a presentation slide
Merkel says companies deserve another chance to get it rightImage: picture-alliance / Tobias Kleinschmidt

The debate over using quotas to get more women into positions of power at companies had some crying cat fight. The labor minister and former family minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said she wanted a quota of 30 percent. Her replacement and current family minister, Kristina Schröder, said companies should set their own goals, which would then be legally binding.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel put her foot down, saying through spokesman Steffen Seibert that there would be no fixed quota.

Merkel wants to give the companies another chance to increase the number of women executives on their own terms, Seibert said. Merkel was looking for "a pragmatic solution, that didn't lose sight of the goal" of increasing the representation of women.

Family Minister Kristina Schröder, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel (right) put an end to a spat over quotas between Schröder (left) and von der Leyen (middle)Image: dapd

Politically untenable

Seibert also said she wasn't interested in pushing for something that couldn't be realized with the current governing coalition. Merkel's government is dependent on the support of its junior coalition partner, the economically liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The FDP has come out hard against any kind of quotas.

"I told the Chancellor that this is not a viable option for us," FDP head and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle was quoted as saying in the Passauer Neue Presse daily newspaper.

On Thursday, Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle, also of the FDP, proposed more cooperation between the business world and the government on the issue. He told the Rheinische Post newspaper he wants to get the two sides to agree to a pact to get more women into management.

Family Minister Schröder has invited recruiters and human resources heads from the top German corporations to a meeting in March to discuss the situation. In Germany's 200 largest companies, women make up just 3.2 percent of the executive positions.

Author: Holly Fox (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel