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Women on boards and in managing positions: Pole position for Daimler?

  • Photo credit: © Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal | Friederike Wiemann

(01.04.2015) The project „European Women Shareholders Demand Gender Equality“ continues today with the Annual General Meeting of Daimler AG in Berlin. For the project coordinator, the German Women Lawyers Association e. V. (djb), Prof. Dr. Angela Kolb, Minister for Justice and Equality of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg will address critical questions referring to women in management positions as well as on Supervisory and Executive Board. Kolb is accompanied by Ramona Pisal, President of the djb, Berlin.

Kolb: „The agreement between the federal government and Germany’s top business associations to promote equality of opportunity for women and men in the private sector in 2001 has led to next to nothing. It was not until 2009, that under enormous public pressure the Supervisory Boards opened up for women, while on the Executive Boards still very few women are represented. This is why I have supported the German female quota by law.“

According to German Co-determination Law, the Supervisory Board of Daimler AG consists of twenty members, of whom ten are elected by the shareholders and ten are representatives of the employees. On average, the Daimler Supervisory Board shows 25 percent women. On the shareholders‘ side, there are even 30 percent, which is rather unusual and quite remarkable for this side of the bench. It’s up to the employees‘ side now to act upon the newly adopted „Law for the equal participation of women and men in leadership positions in the private and the public sector“ which requires 30 percent women on Supervisory Boards.

Referring to the composition of the Executive Board, in 2011, Daimler shook off the competition and gained the pole position: Dr. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt was the first woman in the company’s history and only the sixth who German blue chip companies ever called onto their Executive Boards.

The future law requires binding targets for executive boards as well as for top management levels to increase the representation of women in leading positions. At Daimler, the proportion of women in management positions reaches 14.6 percent; the increase of female representation lingers for years around/below one percentage point p. a.

Pisal: „At that speed, the car maker will safely reach its self-imposed target of 20 percent by 2020. But isn’t there a bit more under the hood? Nothing but the best – acceleration should not be unfamiliar for Daimler. We need more speed for the promotion of women. Gentlemen, step on the gas.“

Background

On the 6th of March, the German Parliament passed the law for the equal participation of women and men in leadership positions in the private and public sector which provides a fixed quota of 30% women on the boards of the 100 largest German companies.

The German Women Lawyers Association (djb) welcomed the quota as an important first step towards achieving gender equality guaranteed through European legislation as well as through basic constitutional law. Its scale is rather modest. We continue to demand a quota for women of at least 40% for Supervisory Boards, Executive Boards and all management positions.

This perspective is being shared at the European level. The proposed “Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on improving the gender balance among directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures” also foresees the quota demanded by the djb. However, Art. 4b) introduces a “flexibility” clause, which allows Member States to suspend this quota under certain conditions. Germany could in this case rely on the national law and suspend the European quota of 40%, because the mandatory quota of 30% women on the Supervisory Boards would suffice.

Initiated by the djb, the project “European Women Shareholders Demand Gender Equality” was awarded in a grant in 2014 by the European Commission (together with 16 other European projects) under the PROGRESS program. It is co-funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), the Ministry for Justice and Equality of Saxony-Anhalt and the Finland Chamber of Commerce.

The project partners include, along with the djb, the four women lawyers organizations, European Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), EWLA Bulgaria, Association Française des femmes juristes, (AFFJ), Hungarian Women (Advocate) Lawyers Association, the Finland Chamber of Commerce and the University of West of England. The Ministry for Justice and Gender Equality of Saxony-Anhalt is hosting the closure event and the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences is responsible for the evaluation of the project.

Currently, lawyers and other business women are visiting around 100 annual general meetings of listed companies in eleven EU member states. In the Benelux countries, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy and Spain, the EURO STOXX 50 companies have to answer the critical questions posed by women lawyers. In Bulgaria, Hungary and the United Kingdom, BUX-, SOFIX- and FTSE listed companies are being targeted.

The project connects with the German project “Women shareholders demand equality – Increase the number of women in management positions, especially on Supervisory Boards of German listed companies”, funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and continues throughout Europe. In the course of the German project from 2009 to 2013 djb members as well as other shareholders have attended 300 annual general meetings of listed companies exercising their information right. The answers from the Supervisory and Executive boards to all questions on women in management position in the companies have been analyzed and published in four studies.

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