A quota of 30 per cent for women on the supervisory boards of large German companies theoretically takes effect on January 1, but many companies have barely reacted, as the provisions of the law allow for gradual phasing in.
Several companies have little intention of appointing women to the board, the left-liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported on Tuesday, pointing to Porsche, Fresenius, Eon, Commerzbank and ThyssenKrupp.
"Those ignoring the women's quota are harming themselves," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that anyone who believed there was a lack of sufficiently talented women was "stuck intellectually in the last century."
That view is contradicted by many male board members, half of whom say that the search for suitable supervisory board candidates is made "considerably more difficult" by the law, according to a survey by the monthly Manager Magazin.
The law affects 101 listed companies from the start of next year. Board seats may not be taken up by men until the quota is reached, but sitting board members may remain in position.
Perhaps of greater importance is the requirement imposed on a further 3,500 German companies to publish their targets for the proportion of women on their boards and lower levels of management.
But the requirement lacks teeth, as companies may simply enter "zero" without facing sanction.
"It is now coming back to haunt us that no sanctions were built into the law," Greens member of parliament Renate Kuenast said. The quota had also been set too low, she said.
According to the FiDAR initiative promoting women on company boards, the proportion of women on the boards of Germany's top 160 companies is currently at 5.4 per cent.
In August 2015, the proportion of women on the supervisory boards of the top 30 companies included in the main DAX index was 26.7 per cent, but this figure is now thought to have declined slightly.
There are vast differences. Laundry, cosmetics and adhesives company Henkel leads with 43.75 per cent women on its board. Medical sector companies Fresenius and Fresenius Medical Care scored 0 per cent.
The BDI Federation of German Industries remains critical of the idea. "A fixed quota is and remains a major intervention in business freedom," BDI board member Holger Loesch said, but he acknowledged at the same that there had been "tangible progress."
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