Germany Announces The “Frauenquote” A New Boardroom Female Quota Law


Increasing the numbers of women in leadership is an important thing. We are only just emerging from a generation and an era where the majority fo the workforce was male dominated, while the women occupied more traditional roles such as homemakers and stay-at-home moms. Thanks to the Women’s Liberation movement, feminism and women’s rights, gender equality is what this generation is all about, and one of the ways we are trying to equalize the world is to encourage more women in positions of leadership.

In a bid to speed up the process, Germany has just announced a new law that will give women a literal and figurative seat at the table they have been excluded from for so long. According to the The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), just 6% of management board positions and 22% of supervisory board seats are held by women among the 30 companies on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Also the gender pay gap in Germany remains at 22%, the third-biggest in Europe, according to to Eurostat data published in March of 2013.

The “Frauenquote” declares companies registered on the German stock exchange will be required to have at least 30% women on their supervisory boards. Being officially signed into law in December 2014, the ruling won’t come into effect until 2016. According to the Guardian, many of Germany’s largest firms are resisting the new ruling, including a number of car manufacturers which are threatening to move their production overseas in light of the Frauenquote. Oh boo hoo, you’re required to be gender equal, let’s have a big fat cry over it, throw a tantrum and go sulk in another country!

Their argument is that implementing quotas only treat the symptom of the lack of women in the boardroom, and they need chances, not quotas. Here’s the thing fellas, quotas DO create those chances because it means companies are now forced to consider women just as much as they are men.

We’ve heard and read many different criticisms of the quota law, which say that women are basically getting a handout. But when you are the gender that has been overlooked year after year after year and you are more than qualified, a quota is like that light at the end of the tunnel which you never thought existed because of the brick wall in front of you for so long.

A quick look at this data released in march 2014 show the percentages of women in boardrooms by country. Norway leads the pack and just over 40%. That’s still not even half! Germany currently stands at 14.1% but the Frauenquote looks set to change that.


Norway implemented their own quota laws back in 2003 and were the first to do so, so far it is paying off. Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Iceland and even Dubai have since followed suit.

The two political parties in Germany who backed the Frauenquote were the Christian Democratic Union, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Social Democratic Party, both of which are tipped to be the next ruling party in Germany.

Considering Germany is Europe’s largest economy, this move is a big deal. Businesses will not be allowed to claim that they cannot find enough suitable women candidates. Any that do will have to leave positions vacant under what has been termed the “empty chair sanction”.

The women’s affairs minister, Manuela Schwesig of the Social Democrats, said she hoped the law would also promote change further down the pecking order of companies, whether those listed on the stock exchange or the”mittelstand” (small and medium-sized) firms.

“This law is an important step for equality because it will initiate cultural change in the workplace,” she told German radio.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who initially opposed the reform, told the Bundestag on Wednesday: “It has been decided on and it is coming. We cannot afford to do without the skills of women.”

Some business leaders had said the law was not necessary because equality between the sexes is anchored in the German constitution, and also that voluntary solutions were preferable. But Schwesig said equality was “far from being true in real life”. The effects of the law, she said, had the potential to go beyond the boardroom and would ultimately contribute to a change in society.

Here’s the thing to those who believe the law should be voluntary, up until now you HAVE had the chance to voluntary create more chances for women, and it hasn’t happened. What’s happening now is an executive action declaring that you weren’t trusted with the responsibility to create an equal workforce, and so it will happen regardless of your well-intentions. Simple!


The quota doesn’t seek to overlook professional qualifications, we cannot look at this kind of law and criticize it that way. Especially since if companies cannot find viable candidates they are to leave the seat empty, rather than just fill it with any woman. The frauenquote allows companies to have a wider scope when it comes to looking for qualified candidates.

In Canada a new organization called the 30% Club is being formed, spearheaded by former Bank of Canada director Spencer Lathier who says getting CEOs and board chairs to actively pledge for more diversity in their companies. The idea was originally created in the UK in 2010 by investment industry executive Helena Morrissey whose aspiration was to boost the proportion of women on boards in the U.K. to 30 per cent by 2015. Helena was convinced that board chairs would be most likely to take action on diversity if they were approached by their own peers – primarily other men who head major corporate boards.

Both Canada and Australia are launching new 30% Club chapters early in 2015, which will spread the 30% Club across seven countries, including the United States, Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa. Further expansion is in the works for Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

A study conducted by Yale University and published by the Scientific American, in September 2012 showed some interesting results from an investigation where resumes were submitted for a research lab position.

Half the scientists were given the application with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hire-ability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.

“…there are people fiercely committed to the idea that sexism does not exist. They will point to everything and anything else to explain differences while becoming angry and condescending if you even suggest that discrimination could be a factor. But these people are wrong. This data shows they are wrong. And if you encounter them, you can now use this study to inform them they’re wrong. You can say that a study found that absolutely all other factors held equal, females are discriminated against in science. Sexism exists. It’s real,” writes Ilana Yurkiewicz. Sure this study relates specifically to the science industry in the US, but these attitudes of misogyny by and large exist on a grander scale throughout the workplace.

German media commentator Heribert Prantl said the introduction of a frauenquote was simply bringing an end to the fact that “for ever and a day in top positions in business there have been male quotas of almost 100%. So the frauenquote are not the introduction of quotas, rather they are breaking through existing quotas … they are a tool to establish sensible standards. Just as children learn to swim with armbands, so the women’s quotas are the armbands of society.”

We’re all for the frauenquote! Here’s hoping it will continue to be a trend that will introduce a marked shift in workplace gender attitudes so that one day a law like this won’t be needed.



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