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Today women shareholders demand gender equality! djb initiates strong campaign in the EU: kick-off today

(27.01.2015) Today is the start of a programme of action initiated by the German Women Lawyers Association (djb) “European Women Shareholders Demand Gender Equality” calling on Company Boards to do more to promote women onto all levels of management and Board positions across Europe. Siemens AG’s AGM is the first to be targeted. The EU PROGRESS Programme funded project will have women lawyers and other professional women attending and speaking at as many as 100 AGMs of listed companies in eleven EU Member States calling for greater female representation on Boards. In the first half of 2015 listed companies from the EUROSTOXX 50 in the Benelux, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain must answer critical questions on women’s representation in management positions. In Bulgaria, Hungary and the United Kingdom selected companies from the national indices BUX, SOFIX and FTSE 100 will be visited.

Women have been working at Siemens for 140 years. Five of the twenty members of the Supervisory Board are women; two of them come from the shareholder side. Two women (out of seven) will be on the Executive Board. As for managerial positions, the proportion of women has stagnated since 2013 worldwide; in Germany it is only 12 % with a growth rate of less than 1 % in recent years. (Status report 2013’Women in leadership positions’. Development and goals of the 30 DAX companies”, June 2014.) Siemens is doing quite well but can do more: The current Women Executive Barometer of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) observed an overall „snail-pace“ of positive change (DIW Economic Bulletin No. 4, 2015, p. 70).

Ramona Pisal, President of the djb, Berlin: „These can hardly be satisfactory figures for Siemens, once a pioneer among the DAX companies with two women on the Executive Board. Nonetheless, today Siemens could easily fulfill the target of the proposed law for more women in management positions – 30 percent women on the Supervisory board from 2016 – by just appointing another woman. But having women represented on Supervisory Boards alone is not enough. Companies need to consider women at all stages of their careers from recruitment through all further career steps in the same way they complement the careers of men. CEO Joe Kaeser has shown openness for a legislative provision if companies fail to manage this on their own. We are waiting to see which goals the company has set now and look forward to the answers in the annual general meeting.”

Background

The proposed law for the equal participation of women and men in leadership positions in the private and public sector provides a fixed quota of 30% women on the boards of the largest German companies, about one hundred.

The German Women Lawyers Association (djb) welcomed the draft as an important first step, but considers its scale rather modest. Achieving gender equality guaranteed through European legislation as well as through basic constitutional law needs to finally pick up speed. The djb continues therefore to call for a quota of at least 40 percent women on Supervisory and Executive Boards and all executive positions. With the successor of the project “Women Shareholders Demand Gender Equality” European allies have been mobilized. Together, we call on the companies as well on national and European policy makers to support us.

Politicians would be well advised to bring the proposed law, representing a minimal consensus, to fruition. A draft of the German law will be discussed in the German Parliament for the first time next Friday. 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” foresees a quota of 40%. 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 boards would suffice.

Initiated by the djb, 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 evaluation.

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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