In twelve to 24 months, we are going to have the first female head of the Dax
Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Ulrike Wieduwilt was interviewed for The Welt article, “In twelve to 24 months, we are going to have the first female head of the Dax.” An excerpt of the article, translated from the original German, is below.
On the Priwall Baltic Sea beach, there is an ugly tower used by DLRG lifeguards in the summer. No more than ten meters away, is Ulrike Wieduwilt’s vacation house. The German head of Russell Reynolds, one of the world’s largest personnel consultants, wanted to renovate the tower at her own expense, but the responsible authority of Lübeck prohibited her from doing so, because the tower was not her property.
Wieduwilt started her career with the food producer Mars, and for the last 20 years she has worked for Russell Reynolds, seeking candidates for top positions – especially in the consumer goods industry. For the last two years she has headed the German business.
Since her childhood, the 56-year old manager has felt bound to the vacation house, which her grandfather built. For her, the best relaxation is taking a walk with her dog, Jacko.
WELT: Let me guess, Ms. Wieduwilt: From the name, your dog could be about ten years old.
Ulrike Wieduwilt: That’s right! We got Jacko in 2009 from the doggie door and took him into our family. My daughter was a big Michael Jackson fan.
WELT: On the subject of fitting in: You have put together a circle of female managers. What is this group of women about?
Wieduwilt: A couple of years ago, I thought if men can climb a mountain, then so can we women. Then seven years ago, I formed a group. We call ourselves the "alpinists", consist of up to 16 women and regularly go to the mountains together. We are led by Juliane Möcklinghoff, a mountain climber and journalist. The women work in management, on executive and supervisory boards of company groups and middle-sized firms.
WELT: Which of you chooses your direction?
Wieduwilt: We have agreed on clear rules and set a goal. Communication and chatting as we walk is more important to me than any sort of altitude records. In addition, the rule is no speaking ill to others about members of our group. In the evening, one women of the group speaks about her personal experiences. That can be about the time after the birth of a second child and how she got along at work with that situation.
WELT: Keyword "Women": Take Melanie Kreis. In the executive board of the German Post Office, she is responsible for finance and is mentioned as a possible first female boss of a Dax company. Why are there so few women entrusted with such a career?
Wieduwilt: I would entrust it to quite a few women I know. For me, it because the clay layer, as I like to call it, is occupied by too few women. We need at least a 25 percent share of women in the first and second levels below the executive board. When we are that far, companies will be managed better and more women will get up to the top. The levels of which I speak can deal with positions such as responsibility for individual countries or for controlling in the financial area. Today, when a woman is working in the executive board, there are usually no other women in the two levels below. That has to change for the share of women to be able to get into the top positions.
WELT: What has to happen specifically in order to get there?
Wieduwilt: For example, women need more support in raising children. The tax deduction for the expense of a housekeeper should be greater. That would be especially helpful for families in the case of a second child. Because on the other hand, it is also a fact that a part-time job for a woman is difficult to align with a desire to get into top management of a business. After the birth of our daughter, I myself went down to 80 percent of working time. That just fit and worked.
WELT: The State prescribes a quota of 30 percent of women in the supervisory boards of Dax companies. Is that also necessary for the executive board?
Wieduwilt: I see in Germany that clearly no progress is being made on this theme. In international comparisons, the country is always in the last three places when the issue is women in management positions. The argument against a quota, however, is that the quality of the candidate, and not the gender, has to be determinative. I am certain that some things will improve. I do not think that a quota prescribed by the State is the right way.
WELT: So everything stays as it is?
Wieduwilt: I am confident that in the next twelve to 24 months, we will see the first female boss of a Dax company. Currently, I see two or three women in the executive boards who could do that.
Click here to read this article and others in its original German.