A Look at Gender and Sustainability Trends in DAX Supervisory Boards

Industry TrendsNext Generation BoardsDEISustainability OfficersBoard of DirectorsBoard and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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August 10, 2023
3 min read
Industry TrendsNext Generation BoardsDEISustainability OfficersBoard of DirectorsBoard and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
Executive Summary
The proportion of women on DAX boards has reached an all-time high as companies elected more women than men for the first time.


For the first time in the history of Germany's most important stock market index, DAX, more women than men were elected to supervisory boards.

Our annual 2023 DAX Supervisory Board Study found that 55% of all those elected to the supervisory boards of Germany's 40 largest listed companies in the last year were women. And despite a record number of women also leaving those supervisory boards, the proportion of female supervisory board members climbed to an unprecedented 38.3% (shareholder and employee representatives combined).

Read the 2023 DAX Board Study here →

Our analysis shows women now hold at least 40% of board seats (shareholder and employee representatives combined) at 19 of the DAX companies, up from 16 the previous year. At six of those companies, women hold at least half of all board seats. Of the 40 DAX companies, only Porsche SE is yet to reach 30% representation (legally required for parity co-determined companies, which is not the case for Porsche SE). 

While this progress is promising, the DAX is still trailing the prime indices in France, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark.


Average proposition of women in (supervisory) boards of major European stock indices

Graph 1

* Data sources: Germany, Switzerland: own analysis; other countries: European Institute for Gender Equality (eige.europa.eu).


Progress is also mixed when looking at the distribution of power within DAX supervisory bodies. Only two of the supervisory board chairs are female (a drop to 5% from 10% in 2021). However, women now chair 20% of the committees, which is a new high.


DAX 40: Gender representation in chair positions and committees

Graph 2


Equal numbers of men and women on supervisory boards is now within sight

Our multi-year analysis of DAX supervisory boards suggests once the 30% quota was achieved, the proportion of women on DAX supervisory boards came to a standstill. It is only recently that the numbers of women have begun to rise again, with a significant increase in the proportion of women this year. While government quotas have, at least initially, been responsible for the rise in female representation, societal pressure to improve gender parity further is likely to be having an effect. German companies are also experiencing the rewards of having more highly qualified women on their boards. Even without further legal action, it is therefore probable numbers of women will continue to increase. And, at least among the largest listed German companies, equal numbers of women and men on supervisory boards is now within sight.


Sustainability expertise in demand like never before

In the past, sustainability has mainly been a matter of corporate philanthropy, sitting predominantly under marketing as a public relations activity for many companies. However, this viewpoint is now shifting. It is increasingly being seen as a strategic business priority that involves significant risks and opportunities. Accordingly, sustainability expertise has never been more in demand on boards. Around two-thirds of DAX supervisory boards have now installed an ESG committee or have a member with sustainability expertise in their ranks.

Supervisory boards are also increasingly linking executive board members’ compensation to ESG targets. On average, 8% of compensation is directly linked to the achievement of ESG targets and we expect this to increase further in the coming years.


For further insights, Read the 2023 DAX Board Study here →