Women still don't have much of a voice on DAX management boards
Board EffectivenessDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
Article Icon Press Release
June 01, 2020
Board EffectivenessDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
Executive Summary
Germany is not making headway in filling top positions with women in its thirty DAX companies.
  • Share of women board members stagnating at 14% for the past three years

  • Six DAX boards have 25% female members, seven have none

  • Women join boards earlier, are younger, leave earlier

  • Internationally, the DAX is not in contention regarding its women board members

  • Linde and Deutsche Bank pay best, Infineon and MTU pay worst

Germany is not making headway in filling top positions with women in its thirty DAX companies: the number of women on DAX boards has stagnated at 14% for three years.

Previously, it had doubled within four years, from 7% in 2014 to just under 14% in 2018. Of the 190 board members of DAX companies, 27 are currently women. Five are chief financial officers (CFOs), and six are chief human resources officers (CHROs), but none are chief executive officers (CEOs). A survey by the leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates came up with these results after the company, which specialises in recruiting top executives, had evaluated DAX management boards' current composition.

Women are younger than men when they become board members (48.5 years on average) and are also three years junior to men (51 years). They don't stay board members as long as their male colleagues and leave 1.2 years (or 20%) earlier than men. The average board management stint for women was 5.8 years and for men 7 years (for board members that left during the past 16 months). Internationally, Germany lags far behind many other countries regarding female representation on its management boards. Norway boasts almost twice the number of women board members, and the rate is also higher in Sweden, Great Britain, the USA, Finland, France, Denmark, Spain, and the Netherlands.

"The debate triggered five years ago by the law on equal rights in management positions did accelerate the appointment of female management board members for a while. But this momentum has stalled during the past three years, and the same seems to be true for DAX supervisory boards. Once the legally required 30% had been achieved, the quota of women has been stagnating at a third", says Jens-Thomas Pietralla, Head of European Board & CEO Advisory Partners at Russell Reynolds Associates.

Six management boards have a 25% female share - seven have no women at all

Among the DAX companies there are great differences regarding the number of women management board members. Six companies have a female share of 25% on their boards of directors (Covestro, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, Fresenius Medical Care, Vonovia, Wirecard), two have 20% (Allianz, Merck), and seven DAX companies don't have a woman on their management boards (Bayer, E.ON, HeidelbergCement, Infineon, MTU Aero Engines, RWE, Siemens).

83% of DAX CEOs are Germans

More female DAX board members have an international background their male peers: 44% are from abroad, among men the number is around 30%. Overall, two-thirds of all board members hail from Germany, one third from abroad, of which some 20% from elsewhere in Europe. 83% of all CEOs are Germans. Even though the proportion of locals manning the upper board echelons has been stubbornly high, the internationalisation of DAX boards has recently increased considerably. In the past two years, almost as many foreigners as Germans were appointed to DAX boards. 

CFOs have a better chance of a lateral appointment

Around 17% of all current CEOs were appointed from outside, while 83% were developed internally to become CEOs. Only half the current chief financial officers (CFOs) were found inside the company, while the other half were recruited outside. "It is easier for CFOs to move to other companies in their position than it is for CEOs", says Dr Thomas Tomkos, Head of German Board & CEO Advisory Partners at Russell Reynolds Associates.

Board member for 18 years

Analysing tenure in a company vs. the age at the time of board appointment, produces a mixed bag. Seven board members have been with the firm for 35 years, nine have been board members for at least 15 years, and another seven were aged between 30 and 40 when they were appointed. Joe Kaeser at Siemens has been with his employer the longest, logging 40 years of service. Frank Appel of Deutsche Post has been CEO longer than anyone, running the company for the last 18 years.

Linde pays five and a half times more than MTU

Remuneration also is all over the scale. Lately (2019) board members at Linde (EUR 8.9 million), Deutsche Bank (EUR 6.6 million), and SAP (EUR 6.3 million) were the highest earners. MTU (EUR 1.6 million) and Infineon (EUR 1.8 million) had the lowest average pay-out.

"Although a lot of catching up has to be done regarding the women quota, it is nonetheless true that additions to the board of management tend to become more diverse. One can work one's way up in a company and stay with the same firm for a lifetime, or one can join from outside as a board member, and one can increasingly do so from abroad. One can become a DAX management board member at age 30 or even be CEO for 18 years. The trend towards greater diversity continues", says Thomas Tomkos.


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Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory and search firm. Our 470+ consultants in 46 offices work with public, private and nonprofit organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture and effectiveness to identifying, assessing and defining the best leadership for organizations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.


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