Government introduces quota for females

The federal coalition has been attacked from all sides of the political spectrum after agreeing on a quota for females in businesses close to the state.Social Democratic (SPÖ) Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek and People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner announced yesterday (Tues) that the decision will affect 55 companies in which the Republic of Austria holds a share of 50 per cent or more.The ministers explained that firms’ supervisory boards must consist of at least 25 per cent women in two years and 35 per cent in 2018. They explained the decision should motivate private businesses to follow the example which applies to state-owned companies such as electricity provider Verbund, road administration firm Asfinag, Federal Railways (ÖBB) and the Austrian National Bank (OeNB).ÖBB reacted by announcing it would try to fulfil the criteria before the deadlines.Heinisch-Hosek – who has spoken out for the introduction of a quota on women for a long time – praised the agreement as a “step into the right direction.”She said: “A door has been opened today.”Mitterlehner stressed he expected private firms to implement similar rules in the near future. “This would be a logical next step,” the ÖVP official said.Mitterlehner called the agreement between his party and coalition partner SPÖ a “compromise”. Heinisch-Hosek previously announced she wanted a quota of 40 per cent by 2018, while the economy minister spoke out in support of a 30 per cent rate.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann said he “agrees” with the 25 per cent / 35 per cent regulation. ÖVP Family Affairs Councillor said she would press on with introducing measures to help young women to bring family responsibilities and their jobs under one hat.Green MP Judith Schwentner branded the agreement between the joint SPÖ-ÖVP administration a “sad compromise”. The opposition party’s women’s affairs spokesman said today all firms listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG) should have been ordered to introduce a 40 per cent regulation.Schwentner also attacked the government for failing to establish any kind of possible sanctions for state-owned firms ignoring the 25 per cent / 35 per cent order. Heinisch-Hosek and Mitterlehner argued statutory actions could be agreed upon when companies fail to fulfil the 35 per cent rate in 2018.Martina Schenk of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) claimed any kind of quota would “degrade” women. She said her party would continue campaigning in favour of a minimum wage of 1,300 Euros before tax for everyone working in Austria. The right-winger added the coalition’s 35 per cent quota would “discriminate” businesswomen.The Austrian Economy Chamber (WKO) and the Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) made clear they would oppose possibly upcoming compulsory measures affecting private businesses.Only nine per cent of members of the supervisory boards of Austria’s 20 leading firms quoted on the WBAG are female. This is one of the lowest rates in Europe, the European Commission (EC) has found. A survey shows that only firms in Luxembourg (four per cent), Italy (five per cent), Portugal (five per cent), Greece (six per cent) and Ireland (eight per cent) do worse in this regard. Norway – which is not a member of the European Union (EU) – had the highest rate on the continent last year at 39 per cent.Just 16.1 per cent of supervisory board members of companies which are owned by the Republic of Austria were women in 2008, up from 13.9 per cent the previous year. The Austrian Audit Office (RH) also found that around one in 10 (11.6 per cent) of executive board managers of these firms were female in 2008 (2007: 11.2 per cent).