The change in the management levels of the German economy is picking up speed.

The number of women on the executive boards of the 160 largest German listed companies has risen faster than ever in the past 12 months.

Of the total of 113 newly appointed board members, 32 were women - that is almost twice as many new female appointments as in previous years.

This is the result of a count by the Allbright Foundation, which analyzed the new appointments between September 2020 and September 2021.

Tillmann Neuscheler

Editor in business.

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The number of female CEOs is also increasing, albeit at a very low level.

A year ago only 5 of the 160 executive positions were occupied by women, now there are eight. In addition to Belén Garijo at the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck, Christina Johansson at the construction company Bilfinger, Maria Zesch at the business outfitter Takkt and Britta are new to the top management positions this year Giesen at the mechanical engineering group Pfeiffer Vaccuum.

In an international comparison, Germany is still lagging behind, complains Allbright managing director Wiebke Ankersen.

This is shown by a look at the proportion of women on the executive boards of each of the 30 largest listed companies.

In Germany the proportion of women is 18.3 percent, in Sweden and Great Britain it is now over 27 percent and in the United States it is over 31 percent.

More than half of the 160 largest German listed companies still do not have a single woman on their top management board.

The new minimum participation law has been in effect since August

The fact that the number of women in top German management has recently increased faster than before is likely due to the new legal situation. A law on the minimum participation of women in management bodies has been in force in Germany since August. The law with the awkward name "Second Management Positions Act" (short: FüPoG II) obliges large companies that have at least 2000 employees and at the same time come under the Codetermination Act to have at least one woman on the top management level in the future, as soon as the board of directors consists of at least 4 members. According to the Ministry of Justice, around 70 companies are affected by the law, but many of them already comply with the rule.The law passed in the summer was largely driven by Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), who herself praised it as a “milestone” for women in Germany.

Of the 20 of the 160 largest German listed companies that have appointed a woman to their board of directors for the first time in the past 12 months, around 10 companies are subject to the new law.

Allbright managing director Wiebke Ankersen sees the development as fundamentally positive, but warns that companies "shouldn't sit back and hide behind the one 'alibi woman'". "After all, three large listed companies (Airbus, Allianz, Deutsche Telekom) already have three each Women on the Board of Management, from December also Daimler.

37 companies still with "target size zero" 

Large listed companies have had to justify for around 5 years if they continue to plan without women on their board of directors, otherwise they face a fine. The fact that many companies have set themselves the goal of “zero” has caused political outrage in many cases in the past. However, the number of companies that continue to plan without women has decreased year on year. Five years ago, 110 of the 160 companies had set themselves a “target size zero”, now there are only 37. Of the Dax 40 companies, two companies are currently planning without women on the board: the online ordering platform Delivery Hero and the Berlin cooking box mail order company HelloFresh . Both companies can do this because they do not fall under the statutory minimum participation rule,because either the board of directors is too small (Delivery Hero) or the company is organized in the legal form of the European stock corporation SE (HelloFresh) and was not subject to co-determination at the time of foundation.   

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