The 2013/01/22 at 08:39
While Berlin is currently considering the progressive introduction of a quota of 20 %, then 40 %, for women on the supervisory boards of companies listed on the DAX (the German CAC 40), the presence of women at the helms of businesses is already a reality in SMEs. This is the point highlighted by Hans Georg Driftmann, President of the DIHK, the federation of German CCIs, who notes that “30 % of SMEs are already steered by women. And SMEs make up 90 % of all German businesses.” He goes on to say that “what politicians wish to impose on us is already a reality in a large proportion of SMEs, and more and more enterprises that come to light, are in the hands of women.”
The President of the DIHK is similarly opposed to the introduction of quotas in the upper echelons of companies. True, with the current labour shortage, the employment market needs to open up to new skills. But he also specifies that “not all branches present the same conditions for female candidates. Certain businesses would struggle to hire 30 or 40 % women. An imposed quota would not change the situation in any way.”
Hans Georg Driftmann prefers to focus on a change in mentality. He cites the example that 40 % of vacant seats on the supervisory boards of DAX-listed businesses were held by women in 2011. Another sign of change can be found in the results of the survey conducted one year ago by the DIHK amongst business creators: while only 32 % were women at the start of the century, today they make up 40 % of the new generation of entrepreneurs. According to the estimates of the DIHK, these young female entrepreneurs created 200,000 jobs in the past year. Women from the east of the country are particularly dynamic, no doubt drawing their resources from the GDR model where women contributed to economic life to the same extent as men. This is a contrast to the situation in the west of the country, where women have, for decades, devoted themselves to the sacrosanct triple K: “Kirche, Küche, Kinder” (Church, cooking, children). As a result, in eastern regions, decimated by company closures and an unemployment rate of 10.3 % (compared with the national average of 6.7 %), 43 % of business creators are women. Two CCIs in the east even record a parity of males and females amongst new entrepreneurs.
An example not to follow
For the DIHK, these results are a source of satisfaction. Ten years ago, the federation of CCIs, in conjunction with the BDA (the German employers’ organisation), the BDI (the Federation of German Industry), and the ZDH (German Confederation of Skilled Crafts), signed an agreement with the federal government in support of equal opportunities. Today, the DIHK draws a positive assessment of how the situation has evolved: female university graduates are more numerous than their male counterparts; three-quarters of women are on the job market today, in other words 20 % more than ten years ago; all companies have made adjustments to working hours to accommodate family life…
And above all, in skilled crafts, the number of female graduates with the means to set up their own businesses has doubled in the space of ten years while in businesses, the proportion of women in middle management has gone up from 37 to 51 %. Companies listed on the DAX have also shown progress: the number of female shareholders in these major groups has doubled to reach 11 % today, and Germany even stands out with a rate of 15 % women in supervisory boards of the thirty DAX companies, compared with the European average of 11 %. It should nevertheless be noted that this score is due to the compulsory representation of employees in supervisory boards, positions often granted to women.
Despite singing the praises of these results, the DIHK and all the CCIs are struggling to follow these models. Statistics on female representation in some 80 Chambers point towards a counter-current, if not a retrograde situation. Indeed, only two women head Chambers of Commerce, and the rate of women elected to the general assemblies of Chambers – a volunteer role – comes to barely 15 %. In the absence of the quotas that they criticise, will CCIs manage to apply the equal opportunities message to their own ranks?