Germany's Deutsche Telekom on Monday said it will introduce a quota for female managers, with a target to fill 30 percent of upper and middle management jobs with women by the end of 2015.
That would compare with only 13 percent in 2008, the company said. Deutsche Telekom said it would be the first on Germany's 30-strong DAX index of blue-chip stocks to introduce such a quota.
"It is a matter of social fairness and a categorical necessity for our success," chief executive Rene Obermann said. He argued that "having a greater number of women at the top will quite simply enable us to operate better."
Deutsche Telekom, based in Bonn, said it would use recruitment policy and executive development programs among other tools to reach the target.
In an effort to make management jobs more attractive, it said it was expanding programs such as parental leave systems, part-time and flexible working-hour schemes and child care options.
Deutsche Telekom portrayed its move in part as a response to developments on the labor market and said that about 60 percent of business graduates from German universities are now women.
"A glass ceiling is, however, clearly still stopping too many talented females from making it to the top," personnel chief Thomas Sattelberger said in a statement. "Introducing the women's quota will enable us to break through this ceiling."
Kristina Schroeder, Germany's minister for families, said she was "delighted" by the voluntary move by the country's biggest telecommunications company but signaled that the center-right government doesn't favor legislating on the issue.
"A legally prescribed quota for women on supervisory boards must be the very last resort," Schroeder said. "We will only succeed in bringing about the necessary changes by gaining the business world's support, not by fighting against it."
Norway has led the way in Europe in legislating changes to boardroom culture, introducing a 40 percent female quota rule for listed and state-owned companies.
Since then, Spain has followed suit with rules for female board representation and France has proposed a similar law.
Deutsche Telekom shares were down 0.9 percent in Frankfurt trading at euro9.80 ($13.49).