Germany Will Now Require Companies To Put Women On Their Executive Boards

by Christina Marfice
Hayoung Jeon/Getty

In Germany, companies with at least three board members could soon be required by law to appoint a woman to at least one of those seats

The U.S. isn’t the only country smashing the glass ceiling with its new Vice President-Elect. In Germany, a new law that may soon be finalized will require the country’s biggest companies to finally make room at the table for women, and we’re honestly not sure why more countries aren’t doing this.

Germany’s coalition government had agreed to a new law that would create a mandatory quota for women in seats on the boards of the country’s listed companies. That means that any company big enough to have at least three board seats would be required to appoint at least one woman to the C-suite, according to a statement from the country’s ministry for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth.

“We are putting an end to women-free boardrooms at large companies,” said Franziska Giffey, the minister for women and families, who also called the new law a “historic breakthrough.” Considering Germany currently has the largest economy in all of Europe, we have to agree. This is major.

The move was praised by prominent female business leaders in the country, including Jutta Allmendinger, president of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, who called the new rule “historic.”

However, naturally, there has also been opposition to the law. The Federation of German Industries, which represents 40 different trade groups, said that while it supports the idea of appointing women to leadership roles (of course), having a required quota was “a major intervention in entrepreneurial freedom.”

According to the group’s executive board member, companies need to be given “as long as possible” to comply with the new rule, and they mustn’t face any kind of sanctions if placing a woman on their board is “not practically possible.” Because, you know, women only make up 53 percent of the world’s population. Having them make up 33 percent of your board is too much of an ask. Insert infinite eye rolls here.

Currently, Germany is lagging behind most other developed nations when it comes to having women in leadership roles. According to the nonprofit group Swedish-German Allbright Foundation, women account for just 12.8 percent of management positions in the country’s largest companies. That’s compared to 28.6 percent in the U.S., 24.9 percent in Sweden, 24.5 in the U.K., and 22.2 percent in France.

Still, though, in none of these countries do women represent a third of executive board members like they will in Germany under this new law. Despite whatever protests may come from businesses, there’s no way to see this as anything other than progress.