Germany Headed for Corporate Gender Quotas
Germany is seriously considering the imposition of corporate gender quotas, with Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen saying that she’s “completely convinced” German corporations will never reach gender parity unless legally forced to do so.
According to the Atlantic, Social Democrat Andrea Nahles has also come out in favor of quota laws, while a “working draft” of what regulations might look like is said to be knocking around the Family Ministry. The Atlantic quite correctly notes that quotas are unthinkable in the United States where the Supreme Court has found them to be unconstitutional in public universities seeking a diverse student body.
And Germany is more women-deficient that the U.S. Our female corporate leadership hovers around 15% while Germany’s DAX companies log in at a shameful 3.7%.
Still, Europe is fast outpacing the U.S. in the representation of women on its Boards of Directors, with one out of four board members in Sweden and Finland being female and France clocking in at 40% after the French National Assembly passed a law imposing gender diversity quotas. (see U.K. report Getting the Right Women on Board).
Quotas Would Not Replace Qualified Men with Unqualified Women
I’m surprised to hear the Atlantic opine that quotas would result in qualified men being turned away only to be replaced by women, whether they are qualified or not.
You’d think there was a study out there somewhere saying there are only X number of qualified women but an unlimited number of qualified men to fill the ranks.
The movement is gaining steam in Europe because qualified women are being overlooked at a time when the state of the world’s business and financial affairs suggests that there are more than a few unqualified men presently at the wheel. All of the available research and the lived experience of American corporate life demonstrates that when companies put at least three women on Board, their their presence immediately and significantly improves profitability (countering group-think, among other reasons)
. You build a better mousetrap and the vested interests say “no thanks, we’re comfortable just the way we are.”
The idea that white male-dominated institutions are the natural order of things and the entry of the talented but marginalized would destroy the purported meritocracy of western business interests is simply a means of protecting a system that operates more on good old boy contacts than proven ability (never forget what a “heckuva job” Brownie did when Katrina struck).
In all events, the U.S. and Great Britain will make a great control group for the Finnish, Swedish and French experiment in the bottom line benefits to be derived from including women on Boards. We’ll keep you up to date on all of these developments going forward.
In the meantime, don’t wait for legislation to move on up. There are plenty of private initiatives to assist women getting on board and corporations in finding them. See, for example 2020 Women on Boards, a grassroots campaign to increase the percentage of women who serve on U.S. corporate boards of directors to 20% or greater by the year 2020 and Women 2.0 for female founders and women-led start-ups.