Share of Women on DAX Management Boards Takes Biggest Leap in Index’s History

Industry TrendsNext Generation BoardsDEIDiversity & CultureBoard and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion AdvisoryBoard Effectiveness
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February 14, 2022
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Industry TrendsNext Generation BoardsDEIDiversity & CultureBoard and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion AdvisoryBoard Effectiveness
Executive Summary
The number of women on the executive boards of Germany's largest companies has jumped to an all-time high.


This year, Russell Reynolds Associates once again carried out its annual comprehensive analysis of Germany's DAX and M-DAX companies.

The DAX Management Board Study 2022 Summary can be viewed here

Key takeaways include: 

  • Proportion of women on DAX 40 boards up from 15.3 percent to 19.1 percent in one year
  • 20 percent share will be passed by 1 April 2022
  • 42 percent of new DAX board members are women 
  • Only two companies do not yet comply with Zweites Führungspositionengesetz (FüPoG II) 

The number of women on the executive boards of Germany's largest companies has jumped to an all-time high, suggesting quotas are helping to create greater gender parity. The proportion of women on management boards of Germany's 40 largest listed companies rose faster than ever last year, increasing by about a quarter from 15.3 percent to 19.1 percent.

Compared to international indices, the DAX 40 has made up ground regarding female board member numbers, overtaking the Netherlands and Spain. In Europe, only the Swiss SMI index showed stronger YoY female board member growth. 

If we factor in previously announced upcoming appointments, the proportion of women on DAX 40 boards is expected to rise to 20.2 percent by 1 April 2022. If this pace is maintained, the ratio will exceed 30 percent in two years’ time. 

More work to do

The positive picture is tarnished, however, by the M-DAX and its 50 medium-sized companies, suggesting there is still much more to be done.

The M-DAX substantially trails the DAX 40 regarding the proportion of women and the speed of change. It is also bottom of the table internationally. In the DAX 40, 42% of new appointments in the last 12 months have been women, almost twice as many as in the M-DAX (22%).

The proportion of women on M-DAX management boards only rose from 11 percent to 11.7 percent. More than half (58 percent or 29 companies) the firms still have no female representation on their boards at all. 

Only five new women were appointed to boards of directors in the M-DAX last year. One of them was only in office for six months. 

As it stands, two DAX 40 companies do not yet meet the statutory women's quota (FüPoG II), which came into force in August 2021, and eight of the 40 DAX companies still have no women on their boards. Two of these eight companies are required by law to elect a woman to the next board appointment (Sartorius and MTU), but the law does not apply to the other six DAX 40 companies, because they do not have co-determination (Brenntag, HelloFresh, Linde, Porsche) or because their boards comprise fewer than four members (Delivery Hero, Symrise). This exposes the FüPoG II’s limited effect.

Internationally, Germany continues to lag behind Norway, Finland, the UK, Sweden, France, and Denmark.

The view is not much better when it comes to pay. Women are not paid better than male DAX or M-DAX board members. Taking all 90 DAX and M-DAX companies into account (and excluding chairs), the average compensation for female board members is indeed higher. However, the average salaries paid by companies with female board members (typically the larger and often better-paying companies), is lower for women than for their male board colleagues.

The study also reveals that only a relatively small proportion of women have been granted explicit P&L responsibility. 40 percent of recently appointed female DAX and M-DAX board members oversee either HR or digitalization and transformation activities.

Final thoughts

It is clear the intense public discussion about women in management positions is bearing fruit and has contributed substantially to the largest increase in the proportion of women in German top management in history. 

The increase has, however, thus far been limited to the narrow sector covered by law. The hope is that greater social awareness and an increase in political pressure will force more companies to act. 

That said, it is important to recognize progress is being made and companies have started to embrace change. It is encouraging to see that 55 percent of new female board members were promoted from inside the company. Increasingly, companies are employing targeted personnel development to prepare female executives systematically and successfully for top management roles. This is arguably more important than the impact of any quota. It also disproves the preconception that DAX companies can’t find suitable female candidates for management positions in their own ranks.

While there is more work to be done, this in undoubtedly a step in the right direction. 





To read more about the findings

The DAX Management Board Study 2022 Summary