Women in leadership positions - How German companies can overcome the double burden
IMBA 2013 Section A1 Group F
All members of our group contributed equally to this report.
September 15th 2012
This paper seeks to suggest strategies that companies should adopt to retain female talent, especially for top management positions. Our recommendations are simple in nature, but their simplicity masks considerable hurdles to overcome in achieving gender equality in the C-suite. Hurdles defined by a long held narrative of how work is to be done, that in its present form requires from the two sexes, an identical approach to how it is carried out. This flawed situation constrains the potential to be gained from gender equality by underappreciating the natural strengths inherent in the two sexes, and the benefit in the interplay between them. This is happening at a time when the socio-demographic requirements in the German context increasingly require, and are desirous of the inclusion of women in the top management echelon. This issue is increasingly relevant to Germany, which is beginning to suffer the effects of an ageing society and declining birth rates. According to DeStatis, the official government agency for statistics, the composition of the German population has changed. Whereas in 1990, only 20% were older than 60, in 2010 this number increased to 26%. Furthermore, the birthrate declined from 2.51 children per woman from its highest point, post-WW2, in 1968, to 1.39 children per woman in 2010. This demographic effect is all the more interesting in light of the increasing university graduation rates of women in comparison to men. Already at 54% (Eurostat 2011), this achievement growth in favor of women should provoke in German companies, who need to maintain a competitive workforce in an era of dwindling population, an easy argument as to the benefit of increased female participation. In this context, simply ensuring a sufficient stream of qualified managers for the future is a no-brainer. Perhaps for this reason, already some German companies have taken the initiative in building their representation of women in upper management. Some examples demonstrate the initial steps in making this a publicly known effort, such as, a voluntary promise by many DAX companies (a blue chip stock index of 30 German companies) to raise the participation rates of women in their workforces and management positions. This commitment has been published together with the German Ministry of Family. For example, Deutsche Telekom has introduced a women’s quota for recruitment and enrolment for key management and development programs. By the end of 2015, thirty percent of all upper and middle management positions will be filled by women. These are promising signs but still only represent initial steps and not a country-wide effort. The hurdles are numerous, and very importantly lie, to some degree, with women. This because of the prevailing nature of the double burden, women must decide between their careers or their natural maternal instinct to raise a family. Present workplace norms, by not differing between the sexes, due to the historical male orientation, are failing women at mid-career. The opportunities to achieve upper management positions coincide with the generally appropriate time to begin a family, leaving women with a distinct choice between two, many times, incompatible prospects. Thus, as noted by the Economist, few women are found at the peak of their career, like men, married and with a family, but instead single and burdened by desires they can’t dually manage. This issue highlights a significant problem in leveling equality in upper management. The predominant expectation from these positions is that men and women bring to those positions, and the goals...