Germany "cannot afford to do without the competence of women" even though the new regulations on a quota "will demand more flexibility from employers," she said during a debate in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

The cabinet is scheduled to pass a bill on the quota system for boardroom positions on December 11.     

After weeks of haggling, the leaders of the three parties agreed on Tuesday night that around 100 listed companies and companies with employee representatives should have at least 30 percent women in their boardroom from 2016.
    
Failure to comply with the new regulation will mean that the posts will remain vacant, they said in a joint statement after the meeting.

Around 3,500 medium-sized companies have been asked to publish their gender equality targets for their supervisory and management boards from next year. The new regulation on quota will be applicable also for public sector companies.     

Family Affairs Minister Manuela Schwesig spoke of the agreement as an "important step towards gender equality." The new law represented a change of culture in the labour world," she said in a radio interview.     

Justice Minister Heiko Maas termed the agreement as a "historic decision," which will make Germany "a bit more modern".

He said it will be very unlikely that boardroom chairs will remain vacant because there will be no difficulties to find highly qualified women for the job.

CDU and CSU politicians had earlier expressed fears that the quota system will create new burden for the industry.

President of Federation of German Industries (BDI) Ulrich Grillo sharply criticised the plans of the coalition.

"The industry is prepared to increase the quota for women, but we cannot be forced to do that by law. As before, I am in favour of voluntary solutions," he said in Berlin.

The Federal Association of German Employers (BDA) deplored the government's decision as "damaging for companies and employees."

Until now, very few women have made it to the top leadership of German companies. A recent survey showed that women occupied only around 15 percent of supervisory board posts of 200 top companies at the end of last year.

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