Mandatory 30-Percent Women's Quota Raises Concerns, Hopes

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By Andrea Barbara Schuessler

Dec. 18— Germany's mandatory 30-percent women's quota for supervisory board positions effective in 2016 will be difficult for companies to meet, Martin von Hoeren, board member and partner with Kienbaum Consultants International GmbH in Gummersbach near Cologne, told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview.

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, 108 German companies will have to meet a mandatory 30-percent women's quota for filling vacant supervisory board positions under legislation Germany's parliament approved earlier this year.

Companies both listed on the stock exchange and partially managed by employees will be affected by the new legislation, which will also introduce a voluntary women's quota for approximately 3,500 other companies.

‘Done Too Little'

“We have long done too little to promote more women,” von Hoeren said, but he noted that there are problems with the quota solution.

The legislation does not differentiate between industry branches, for example, or take into account that for some industries—for example, automotive—it will be more difficult to find female board members, von Hoeren said. He also expressed the concern that finding enough qualified female candidates to meet the quota will be a problem across all industries and could take four to six years.

A particular problem is that if companies don't succeed in filling the quota, the legislation requires that empty board seats remain empty, von Hoeren said.

‘Change Averse'

In addition to the concern there are too few qualified women to meet the quota and no consideration of individual industry needs, critics of the quota system have argued that qualifications should have priority over gender, according to a recent Kienbaum survey.

But supporters dismiss these objections.

“We will find enough women for vacant supervisory board positions,” Jacqueline Bauernfeind, partner with Board Consultants International in Munich, told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview Dec. 2.

Bauernfeind said she welcomes Germany's binding women's quota, because “people are change averse and therefore need pressure in order to implement new rules.”

‘Unconscious Bias'

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company will not be required to implement the 30-percent women's quota under the new legislation, but aims to promote more female employees nevertheless.

McKinsey trains its recruiters to avoid “unconscious bias” in hiring decisions, such as favoring candidates with backgrounds similar to their own, Sarah Bachmann, communications specialist for recruiting and HR with McKinsey in Duesseldorf, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 16.

McKinsey is one of the founders of Chefsache: Drive the Change—For Men and Women, a network advocating a better gender balance in top management positions initiated in 2015 by companies including Allianz, IBM, Bosch and Siemens, Bachmann said.

According to the network's website, “Chefsache sets out to encourage a shift of mind-set throughout the working world by promoting new ideas and innovative concepts. There is still a distinct lack of women in Germany's top management levels. Improved gender balance and up-to-date role models will benefit women and men as well as society at large.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Barbara Schuessler in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information


Full text of the quota legislation is available in German in at


For more information on German HR law and regulation, see the Germany primer.

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