Statistics are sometimes misleading. The number of women at the helm of the 40 largest companies listed on the stock exchange in Germany has certainly just doubled – but, concretely, it goes from one… to two. Health giant Fresenius Medical Care has chosen Carla Kriwet to succeed Rice Powell as CEO in January 2023. Enough to keep company with Belen Garijo, who smashed the glass ceiling across the Rhine by taking over as head of the Merck laboratory one year ago.
Aged 51, Carla Kriwet took over the management of household appliance giant BSH (the joint venture between Bosch and Siemens) in July 2020, after having held several positions there on the board of directors. She also holds a PhD in Business
One in three part-time women
However, according to the OECD, the rate of women in the labor market in Germany is higher than in the average for industrialized countries. But the path that leads them to the highest spheres of management remains strewn with pitfalls.
In question, a large number of women working part-time: 36.3% in 2019, against 25.4% on average in the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Observers point to a disadvantageous tax regime for families with two full-time working parents, a shortage of affordable childcare, and an economy based on manufacturing and male-dominated professions like engineering.
Justify non-compliance with the quota
Although it has had a quota since 2016 imposing at least 30% of women on the supervisory boards of DAX companies and large co-managed companies (a German specificity), Germany ranked in the bottom third of the gender diversity index measured by the European Women on Boards association in 2021. It is 12th out of 19, behind the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the whole of Scandinavia and Spain (France comes second, behind Norway).
By way of comparison, Norway had 26 female CEOs in its largest stock market index, and France eight. Changes to German law last year, however, force companies lagging behind in female leadership to justify themselves. Amendments so far without significant repercussions on business life.