barbara mayer gesellschaftsrecht 4.jpgDr. Sven Ufe Tjarks, Fachanwalt für Gesellschaftsrecht

Women’s quota in largest German companies – an initial stock take

Since the beginning of 2016, listed German stock corporations with more than 2,000 employees have to adhere to a minimum quota of 30 percent of female members of the supervisory board. The quota has to be fulfilled whenever it comes to new elections to the supervisory board. On 20 September 2016, the German periodical “Die Aktiengesellschaft”, published an initial stock take with regard to the effectiveness of the quota (Bayer/Hoffmann, AG-Report 18/2016, R267-R270).

According to the data provided in the survey, during the first six months since the quota is applicable, 64 women have been appointed to the board in the approximately 100 companies to which the quota applies. As of 1 July 2016, the average proportion of women in said companies is already close to 30 percent. However, this was partly due to an “over-fulfillment” in certain companies, and more than half of the companies had not yet fulfilled the quota.

Half of the members of the supervisory board of the relevant companies are elected by the employees and the other half by the shareholders. Traditionally, the proportion of women is larger on the employees’ side. Accumulated needs therefore seem to have led to the appointment of 39 new female members on the shareholders’ side and only 25 on the employees’ side. A closer look at the curricula of the women newly appointed on the shareholders’ side revealed that most of them already held other, sometimes multiple, positions in supervisory or management boards or other top positions in politics or research.

The authors of the report conclude that more seats in supervisory boards for women do not necessarily lead to more women in supervisory boards. However, as influence of women in supervisory boards definitely increases with the number of seats they hold, it will be interesting to see if the desired “spill-over” from top to down will lead to more women holding positions at the medium management level of the relevant large companies. Furthermore, the so called flexible quota applicable to companies that are either listed at the stock exchange or have more than 500 employees or fulfill both criteria but have not more than 2,000 staff applies to far more companies in Germany and will thus be of greater practical importance. In these cases the companies themselves can decide on the quota of women in top management positions they wish to fulfill. However, as long as the proportionate of women in a company is below 30 percent, the quota must not be lower than the actual status quo. Empirical evidence regarding this flexible quota is still missing as far as we can see. As long as this is the case, the initial stock take remains incomplete.

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