Top managers demand quota “now and without compromise”

Claudia Oking

The Philip Morris manager considers the changes to the EU directive on women’s quotas to be unacceptable.

(Photo: Frank Beer for Handelsblatt)

Düsseldorf German managers and entrepreneurs are calling for a quota for women on supervisory boards for the entire EU, “now and without compromise”. Under the keywords “Crunch Time” and the hashtags #OhneQuoteGehtNies and #diversityEUjetzt, women are currently publishing numerous posts on social networks, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter, in which they call for the introduction of a Europe-wide women’s quota.

The circle of activists includes the economics Monika Schnitzer as well as Bahn Board Member Sigrid Nikutta, the long-standing Lanxess HR manager Stephanie Cossmann, the entrepreneurs Victoria Wagner and Tijen Onaran, the sociologist Jutta Allmendinger, the FDP politician Silvana Koch-mehrin and the Germany boss of Philip Morris, Claudia Oeking.

At the beginning of the year, the German EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) and the French President Emmanuel Macron surprisingly clearly advocated the adoption of a 40 percent quota for women in the EU for the supervisory boards of all companies. On March 14, the EU ministers also spoke out in favor of the directive.

The proposal for a directive is now being negotiated in the so-called trilogue between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. The decisive meeting at which the compromise will be negotiated is now in Brussels this Tuesday.

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“So far, so good,” says Claudia Oeking, the German boss of the tobacco company Philip Morris and co-initiator of the social media outcry. “However, changes to the guideline have now come on the table that are not acceptable.”

There is a risk that the directive will only be implemented in 2027 instead of 2024/2025 and that no specific percentage has been set as a target to be achieved. Rather, it could be considered sufficient, according to the fear, that a development towards certain percentages would be sufficient.

Diluted quota should not come until 2027

According to the activists, a directive that will only be implemented in 2027 and has watered down goals is “pretty pathetic after ten years of waiting and adjourning”. For example, the Wirtschaftsweise Schnitzer, since 2020 in the Advisory Council for the assessment of the overall economic development, via Twitter: “It is really high time to anchor the quota in supervisory boards across the EU. The experience in Germany shows that it works.”

And sociologist Allmendinger, who heads the Berlin Science Center for Social Research, announces on the same channel: “Unchallenged: More women are needed in management positions. For reasons of justice, social coexistence and economic well-being. I expect @Europarl_DE, @EU_Commission and @EUCouncil to come to an agreement on Tuesday.”

In their statements, the women managers refer to previous experiences in Germany. In this country, little or nothing has happened for years in terms of voluntary commitments by companies.

Only the introduction of the women’s quota of 30 percent for the supervisory boards of listed and equally co-determined companies as part of the “First Management Positions Act” in 2015 brought change.

The proportion of women in the supervisory bodies of the 40 Dax companies is currently around 35 percent. A similar development can be seen in the quota for women on the board of directors, which was only introduced last year. Since then, more female Dax board members have been appointed than ever before.

Diverse teams are more successful

The activists’ beliefs are based on numerous studies showing that diverse teams are more successful in the long term, as well as negative experiences of discrimination against women aspiring to leadership positions.

Oeking writes on LinkedIn: “For all quota muffles. It is a quota intended to ensure that no gender – neither men nor women – should have a strong preponderance on a supervisory board. And we really don’t want them all. But we’ve seen over the decades that it doesn’t work without it. There is no way around it if we want to have more diverse and therefore more innovative and successful companies. We cannot afford any further delays.”

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