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Corporate gender quotas provide mixed results in Germany

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Summary of story from the New York Times, October 2, 2011

German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom is struggling to achieve its target (set in March 2010) for women to occupy 30 per cent of senior and middle management roles by 2015, despite several high profile appointments.

This week, physicist-turned-consultant Claudia Nemat (and one time advisor to the chief executive) became the first female member of its executive committee.

When Marion Schick, minister of education and culture in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, takes over as head of human resources next spring, women will account for 25 percent of Deutsche Telekom’s top leadership, surpassing every other company listed on the DAX index of the Frankfurt stock exchange.

Despite the ascent of Nemat and Schick, and a far-reaching program to recruit and retain talented women, efforts have largely fallen flat — above all in Germany, where more than a third of Deutsche Telekom’s 247,000 employees and half of its managers are based.

About 13 percent of its senior executives in Germany are female, a bit more than a pre-quota 12.5 percent.

Elsewhere, the company — which has offices in about 50 countries — has made more progress. About 28 percent of Deutsche Telekom’s leadership positions outside Germany are held by women, up from 24 percent in 2010.

In Germany, resistance remains strong to legislated quotas similar to those for corporate boards in Norway, France, Spain and other European countries.

The biggest improvements at Deutsche Telekom have come in recruiting more female university graduates: 53 percent of entry-level hires worldwide are now women, the company says, up from 33 percent in early 2010.

Deutsche Telekom has also tried to help employees with young children, or aging parents, to balance careers and families. Yet this flexible-work program has proved somewhat unsuccessful.

After kindergarten, half-day schools remain the norm, and only 14 percent of German mothers with one child resume full-time work.

Once they are mothers, many women find careers scuttled by an infrastructure that perpetuates a Teutonic “mother cult” that was taken to an extreme in the Third Reich but that Germany has not fully shed.

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