Germany's 30 top public companies pledged Monday to increase the number of women in top-level management positions over the next five years, as the nation struggles to combat a shortage of qualified personnel by attracting more women to the workplace.
The 30 companies _ which are traded on the leading DAX index of blue-chip stocks _ each presented individual targets, which ranged from 35 percent by 2018 at Deutsche Bank to 12 percent women in leadership positions by Man AG by the end of 2014.
The pledges come six months after Chancellor Angela Merkel's government suggested that Germany lags far behind other industrialized nations in promoting women to its highest business positions _ a problem the country does not have on the political side.
Yet the government remains divided on the key issue of whether gender equality can or should be legislated.
Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the companies' efforts, but criticized them for falling short of what is needed to convince highly qualified women that they can have a career in Germany as rewarding as they could find abroad.
"The fact is that in the year 2011, we have 15 percent women represented on supervisory boards, and 3.7 percent in the executive boards," said von der Leyen. "That is not acceptable for an economy that competes on the global workplace such as Germany. We've got to improve."
Germany has a female chancellor and five other women in Merkel's 15-member Cabinet. But it ranks alongside India in the number of women in boardrooms, with only 2.2 percent, one of the lowest figures among developed and developing nations.
Sweden leads with women holding 17 percent of its board seats, while the figure is 14 percent in the United States, according to the German Economic Institute.
Norway passed a law in 2003 requiring companies to increase the number of women in all leadership positions, top-level management and board seats. Last year women held 39 percent of all leadership positions there.