Manager by Law: An Analytical Discourse Evaluation of the German Woman Quota


  • Rouven Brües



Two bills for the implementation of a legal women quota demand that all German market-listed companies should be required by law to have at least 40% women on their supervisory boards by 2020. In the German political discourse, the bills ground their justification in what I will articulate as the equality of opportunity argument, which primarily refers to the government’s duty according to German constitutional law to promote the effective implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist. As the Analytical Discourse Evaluation will show, the contested argument hinges on an interpretation of the implied conception of equality of opportunity and can only cogently argue for a redistribution of management positions when assuming that structural disadvantages in employment for women originate from their cultural coercion to raise families.


Deutscher Bundestag, Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur geschlechtergerechten Besetzung von Aufstichtsräten, 17th Parliament, 17/3296, presented 13 October 2010.

Wippermann, C. (201). Frauen in Führungspositionen: Barrieren und Brücken. Heidelberg: Sinus Sociovision GmbH.

Schwenn, K., & Astheimer, S. (2011, October 17). Ursula von der Leyen im Interview. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Accessed June 5, 2012,

Dekker, T. (2013). Paying Our High Public Officials; Evaluating the Political Justifications of Top Wages in the Public Sector. New York: Routledge.

Deutscher Bundestag, Quotenregelung für Aufsichtsräte und Vorstände gesetzlich festschreiben, 17th Parliament, 17/4683, presented 9 February 2011.

Desvaux, G., Devillard-Hoellinger, S., & Baumgarten, P. (2007). Women Matter: Gender Diversity, a Corporate Performance Driver. McKinsey & Company.

Desvaux, G., Devillard, S., & Sancier-Sultan, S. (2010). Women Matter: Women at the Top of Corporations: Making it Happen. McKinsey & Company.

Elke Holst and Anita Wiemer, Zur Unterrepräsentanz von Frauen in Spitzengremien der Wirtschaft Ursachen und Handlungsansätze (Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), 2010).

Thomson, J. (1973). Preferential Hiring. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 2, 364-384.

Mithaug, D. (1996). Equal Opportunity Theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Gender Mainstreaming. UN Women. Accessed June 5, 2011,

Hewlett, S., Luce, C., & Schiller, P. (2005). The Hidden Brain Drain – Off Ramps and On Ramps in Women’s Career. Harvard Business Review 83, 31-57.