Corporate Germany takes a step towards equality

At the end of last week, Germany’s 30 largest blue-chip companies listed on Frankfurt’s DAX index pledged to increase female representation on their boards. The country has lagged behind other developed economies, with just 2.2 per cent of its boardroom posts occupied by women.

“Our goal is to reach a sustainable, company-specific personnel development, as well as adequate representation of women in leadership positions, particularly in top-level management,” the companies said in a joint statement.

It has been left to individual companies to determine what percentage “adequate” might be, but they will be required to make public their plans and update them yearly until 2013.

Corporate Germany’s track record for effecting change voluntarily has not been encouraging. A voluntary commitment in 2001 by companies to increase women’s representation in management positions has borne little fruit a decade later.

However, political will has been toughening over recent months, and the threat of formal quotas has encouraged companies towards this agreement. Six of the 16 ministerial posts in the cabinet of Angela Merkel, the chancellor, are held by women.

In an earlier FT report about the status of women in the German workplace, Daniel Schäfer and Peggy Hollinger reported that until 1977, a husband in Germany was legally able to terminate his wife’s labour contract. Even today, inadequate childcare provision presents an obstacle to women with children returning to work.

There may need to be a much deeper shift in cultural attitudes to women, family and work for German companies to catch up with other developed economies in diversity practice.

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

For more Women at the Top news, video interviews and other features, visit


About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.