This legislative proposal was presented by the EU commission in brussels on wednesday. It’s a political goal – penalties are not inevitable for companies. When a supervisory board position is filled, around 5,000 companies affected had to give preference to a female candidate with the same qualifications. Sanctions, such as money-grabbing, are threatened if companies do not use a "fair and gender-neutral" selection procedure. This could apply when the law comes into force, so according to the EU commission in 2016. There are no requirements for executive board positions.
The EU law has been pushed into action in germany, where currently only 15.6 percent of the supervisory rate is female. "We believe that this must be regulated at the national level," said government spokesman steffen seibert in berlin. The legal basis of the EU decision is dubious, it said. Federal family affairs minister kristina schroder (CDU) also stressed that brussel has no jurisdiction: "national legislation must take precedence over brussel rules."
Germany can still prevent the proposal together with other EU countries. Because, in addition to the european parliament, the eu governments must agree in the council of ministers. Nine countries led by great britain threaten to block the law there.
After bitter opposition, including from within her own ranks, EU justice commissioner viviane reding had substantially watered down her draft. States and companies will retain much leeway: governments will be able to maintain their own programs to get women into top jobs, which brussel sees as promising. According to EU experts, this could also be self-commitments of companies. Only if there is no noticeable progress will the EU end up enforcing its own rules for the election of candidates.
Each state can impose effective sanctions at its own discretion. No penalties are prescribed as long as a company complies with the rules on the selection process but still does not reach 40 percent female representation on the supervisory board by 2020. EU commissioner neelie kroes, who is considered to be an opponent of the quota, therefore wrote: "the proposal would not set a binding EU quota that would apply to every country, but it does set a clear political goal."
In addition, the proposal contains only bump money and the possibility to cancel the appointment after legal review. The option of companies no longer receiving state funds or being excluded from public contracts in the event of their death has been removed.
According to the draft law, the quota is to apply to companies with state participation as early as 2018. Family-owned companies with fewer than 250 employees and less than 50 million euros in sales are exempt from this rule.
Reding had campaigned for months for the controversial women’s quota. The EU commissioner spoke of a "historic day" on wednesday, saying "this proposal will break the glass ceiling that keeps talented women from getting into top jobs."On the twitter news service, reding reported in all 23 official eu languages: "managed."
Resistance not only in german politics, but also in the business community. Many companies fear rigid requirements and money-grabbers. Hypovereinsbank CEO theodor weimer said in munich: "we don’t need any central requirements."
The impact of EU plans is controversial. Lawyers assume that companies will rethink out of fear of lawsuits. "This will lead companies that do not yet have an internal quota to also think: how can we implement this goal??"Karsten kujath, a specialist in labor law at the frankfurt-based law firm graf von westphalen, told the dpa news agency.
German justice minister sabine leutheusser-schnarrenberger (FDP), on the other hand, warned in an interview with the "WAZ" group that the EU rules would only lead to "courts having to deal with many applications".
Positive reactions came from the SPD. SPD deputy chairwoman manuela schwesig spoke of a "rough day for europe’s women". The proposal makes economic sense and is fair.
The FIM network of women managers deplored the weakness of the proposal. "But it is very important that we get the current directive passed. It’s a step in the right direction," FIM board chairwoman barbel jacob told dpa.
According to the commission, women currently make up only 13.7 percent of the members of management bodies in europe. In germany, 15.6 percent of supervisory board positions are held by women, and only 4.2 percent on the more powerful boards.