September 11, 2017 / 2:21 PM / a year ago

German women ask Merkel for more support after vote

BERLIN (Reuters) - A group of German women’s organizations wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday demanding more support for their goals of equal participation, equal pay and better monitoring of gender policies after the Sept. 24 election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a top candidate of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) for the upcoming general elections campaigns in Torgau, Germany, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Merkel was elected as Germany’s first female chancellor in 2005, helped by strong support from women voters, but the leader of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) has not made fighting for equal rights a major priority.

“Women in Germany have moderated their demands for long enough and repeatedly accepted compromises. Without notable progress,” wrote the 17 groups representing 12.5 million women in professions ranging from medicine to law and engineering.

“Now, new, binding milestones with clear targets need to be defined and achieved.”

Opinion polls show that Merkel should easily win a fourth term, with women still more likely to vote for the CDU than the SPD, and far more likely to support Merkel — on 60 percent — than her SPD challenger Martin Schulz — on just 20 percent.

Merkel was initially opposed to quotas, but her government has introduced a requirement for women to hold 30 percent of seats on non-executive company boards after it was championed by her junior coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats.

Beyond that, however, progress at boosting female representation in both business and politics has been slow.

None of Germany’s top 30 listed companies has a female CEO and women hold only 7 percent of executive positions in the 160 biggest listed firms, up from 6 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, the percentage of women in the German parliament is expected to fall to 32 percent from a current 36.5 percent after the election due to the likely entry of the male-dominated Free Democrats and Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD).

Merkel says she wants half her new cabinet to be female, compared to seven out of 16 posts now, although that will depend on which party she shares power with. She has also warned firms they face tougher regulation if they do not promote more women.

The women’s groups said they welcomed Merkel’s desire for an equal cabinet and for more women in business, but said more was needed to improve participation and equal pay.

“The example of the mandatory gender quota for supervisory boards of large companies shows that legal targets are needed to speed up the necessary processes of change and a switch in role models in business and society,” the letter to Merkel said.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Catherine Evans

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