Germany: Few Women Reach Top Positions in Finance, Survey Finds

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By Andrea Barbara Schuessler

Sept. 27—It's particularly difficult for qualified women to reach leadership positions in Germany's finance industry, Elke Holst, research director and senior economist with the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 23.

While the finance industry offers good career opportunities, advancement requires long working hours, a condition more difficult for women than for men given the traditional division of household and family labor in which the greater responsibility is taken on by women, Holst said. This makes it much more difficult for women than for men to reach senior management positions.

In addition to the imbalance of domestic responsibility, gender stereotypes work against the advancement of women, who are often viewed as less competent leaders than men, Holst said.

Leadership Gap

The “gender leadership gap”—the difference between the share of all employees who are women and the share of women in senior management positions—averages 31 percent in finance companies, in which about 50 percent of total staff are women but only 19 percent of top management, according to the recent survey Women's Likelihood of Holding a Senior Management Position Is Considerably Lower Than Men's–Especially in the Financial Sector by Holst and Martin Friedrich, released by the DIW Sept. 14.

On average across all industries, the gender leadership gap in Germany is 17 percent, according to the study, lowest in the information and communication industry at 10 percent.

Some Progress, More Work Necessary

According to Holst and Friedrich, the low share of women in top management positions is among the principal reasons for the continuing gender pay gap. The researchers recommend government action to enhance work/life balance—for example, through providing better childcare facilities—and better attention to the issue by corporations.

Some progress has already been made.

The mandatory quota effective Jan. 1, 2016, requiring that 30 percent of new supervisory board appointments in select companies be of women has changed the top management in about 50 companies, Germany's Family Minister Manuela Schwesig announced in July.

The percentage of women on German supervisory boards of all 151 companies affected by the new legislation was at 29.26 percent in July.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Barbara Schuessler in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

The full survey is available in English


For more information on German HR law and regulation, see the Germany primer.

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