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Quota needed

March 8, 2011

It's still rare to find women in the top jobs in Germany and the need for a set quota has been debated for years. Ulrike Mast-Kirschning believes that it's essential as men won't give up their positions voluntarily.


The image of women slaving over the stove while the men are at work has been hard to shake off in Germany. This is especially clear when you look at the gender balance in the top levels of business. Again and again, women find that their rise up the career ladder is blocked by a glass ceiling. This is in spite of them often being better educated than their male counterparts.

But it's hard to compete with the male network in which men help each other move from job to job. Moreover, many women have other obligations in their free time such as childcare, looking after elderly parents or grandparents and organizing the family's day to day schedule. Behind almost every top manager there is usually a woman who has taken on the responsibility of looking after the family.

The UN's Anti-discrimination Treaty, the EU's Equal Treatment Directive, the German chancellor and now business associations in Germany are all calling for this to change. But so far, very little actually has changed. Together with India, Germany is still far behind the rest of the world in terms of the number of women in leadership positions.

Deutsche Welle's Ulrike Mast-Kirschning
Deutsche Welle's Ulrike Mast-KirschningImage: Fürst-Fastre

Men continue to be in control of all the serious decisions made in the listed companies in Germany. The 16-hour days and the round-the-clock availability which is required to portray the image of the middle-class hero are not compatible with family life.

For a long time, mothers and fathers have wanted to share parenting and not be punished with the loss of their careers. Worldwide, women are needed in business in order to conceive products and services which appeal to both sexes. For this reason, mixed teams have been advocated for a long time. It's been found that they can make complex decision making situations much more successful.

It's obviously difficult for men to relinquish power. A law needs to be passed, therefore which introduces a quota system. In Norway, the system has proved to be extremely successful. A quota for the number of women in the top jobs has also been set for corporations in France, Spain and the Netherlands.

Without a quota in Germany, the opportunity for women to climb the career ladder through merit alone doesn’t work. Women need the support of the quota in order for them to fill at least 30 percent of the top jobs.

Author: Ulrike Mast-Kirschning / cp
Editor: Rob Turner

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