German business aims to bring more women to top jobs

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The 30 major German companies trading on the German blue-chip DAX unveiled a plan Monday to bring more women into management, but stopped short of making quotas compulsory.

Launching the initiative which they called "unique in Europe", the companies said they would fix realistic objectives, specific to each company and would assess their progress annually.

And they emphasised the voluntary nature of the plan.

"For these companies, voluntary participation is the sustainable and justified route, which renders a fixed rule via legislation superfluous," the companies said in a written statement.

Although big-hitters in the German economy undertook efforts to increase female representation 10 years ago, little has changed.

Just 3.2 percent of the most prestigious positions at Germany's 200 biggest companies are held by women, according to the German Institute for Economic Research.

Figures put forward Monday by the 30 DAX companies were more favourable as they took into account all executive posts and not just the very highest levels of management.

They showed that the proportion of women in leading positions currently is 28 percent at Adidas, eight percent at steelmaker ThyssenKrupp and 28.7 percent at Henkel, producer of household products and cosmetics.

Automobile maker Volkswagen, the only company to distinguish three hierarchical management levels, acknowledged it had just 3.7 percent of women in its most prestigious posts.

But, in future, the aim will be to have 20 percent of women in management positions by 2020 at Daimler carmakers, compared to 11.9 percent today, or 14 percent by the end of 2014 at energy giant EON compared to its current level of 12 percent.

The German government, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, named the world's most powerful woman by Forbes magazine, is split over the introduction of compulsory quotas for women in the boardroom.

While Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen supports the idea, Family Minister Kristina Schroeder rejects it, as does Merkel.

© 2011 AFP

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