Press Release

Germany’s 30 largest companies lack 1,100 female top executives


July 11, 2018


  • DAX 30 supervisory boards exceed the female quota target of 30% for the first time in 2018 – but women remain underrepresented in boards and top executive positions
  • In order to be able to fill every third executive position with women, companies need more than 1,100 qualified candidates

Munich, 12 July 2018 – While supervisory boards at Germany’s 30 largest companies (DAX 30) are meeting the German government’s female quota target of 30% for the first time this year, the situation is radically different at the management board level and 1st and 2nd level management. Viewed from this perspective, DAX 30 companies have a long way to go before reaching parity or the 30% quota. In order to meet the 30 percent benchmark, DAX 30 companies would currently need an additional 1,100 female top executives.

Internationalism in supervisory boards also leaves room for improvement in Germany’s largest companies. After posting an increase in 2017, the proportion of supervisory board members from outside Germany declined again this year – and is now at 28%. The study lists 11 non-German board members from the United States, 24 from Austria and Switzerland, 30 from other European countries and six from the rest of the world. Important future growth markets such as Asia, Latin America and Africa are practically not represented by supervisory board members at DAX 30 companies.

These trends and developments are among the findings of the Russell Reynolds Associates 8th annual “DAX 30 Supervisory Board Study”, which was published today. For the past eight years, the study conducted by the leading global executive search consultancy has been analyzing the composition of supervisory boards at DAX 30 companies.

“This marks the start of a golden age for highly qualified women who are motivated to rise to the very top. There is a desperate need for female top executives,” says Jens-Thomas Pietralla, Head of the European Board & CEO Practice at Russell Reynolds Associates.

Only three years after the adoption into law, the female quota target of 30% on non-executive supervisory boards of Germany’s largest publicly traded companies has been met – and exceeded – in May of 2018 (it is now at 31.6%). However, taking into account chairmanship and committee work as indicators of power distribution on supervisory boards, the DAX 30 remains dominated by males: As of now, Simone Bagel-Trah at Henkel is the only female chair of a DAX 30 supervisory board, and there are ten female committee chairs among 129.  

When it came to reaching the female quota on supervisory boards this year, Anglo-American managers played an important role. “Germany is lagging behind when it comes to promoting female executives to leading management positions,” says Pietralla.

The study also reveals a rise of digital expertise among newly elected board members to a 20% level. This strong influx of digital experts into supervisory boards raises the overall level of digital expertise to every tenth board member. This number represents a 67% increase over the past four years.

Again, women have played a central role: The share of female digital directors has increased four-fold over the past four years from three to twelve. With a share of 48%, women now constitute almost half of the digital experts on DAX 30 supervisory boards. “A disproportionate amount of female board members is supporting the process of digital transformation in Germany with their expertise,” concludes Dr. Thomas Tomkos, Head of the German Board & CEO Practice at Russell Reynolds Associates. “Digital transformation therefore appears as particularly female-driven.”

Another key takeaway from the study: The clustering of board mandates among German blue-chip companies continues to decline. The massive structural and financial intermeshing of companies – previously referred to as ‘Deutschland AG’ – is decreasing and so are appointments to multiple DAX 30 board positions. Meanwhile, 2018 also saw an influx of current executive board members at DAX 30 companies into supervisory boards, which blurs the boundaries between management and supervisory bodies. “This is a surprising trend, given the recent rise in expectations towards supervisory boards,” says Tomkos.

Every year, the Russell Reynolds Associates study rates the composition of DAX 30 supervisory boards based on criteria such as gender ratio, nationalities, operational experience abroad, age spread, duration of tenure, business-relevant experience and positions held on other boards. Applying a scoring system similar to that used in German schools (1 = best to 6 = worst), the average assessment of the composition of DAX 30 supervisory boards produced an overall score of 2.2 in 2018, compared to 2.3 in the previous year. This year’s Russell Reynolds supervisory board ranking saw Lufthansa in the top spot, followed by Daimler, Bayer, and MunichRe. Lufthansa achieved a tremendous leap from 16th place one year ago into taking the lead.

Considered as digitization experts are: Executives at companies in the fields of Information Technology (IT), electronics and the Internet, Chief Information Officers (CIO), Chief Digital Officers (CDO) and heads of IT at companies, as well as experts (professors, researchers, members of institutes) in segments such as IT, Industry 4.0, digital media, digital marketing, and digital content.


About Russell Reynolds Associates
About Russell Reynolds Associates Russell Reynolds Associates is a global search and leadership advisory firm. Our 425+ 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 solve their most complex leadership issues. Learn more at and on Twitter @RRAonLeadership

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Germany’s 30 largest companies lack 1,100 female top executives