Progress is a snail. From 2015 to 2021, the proportion of women on the supervisory boards of 263 large companies rose to 36%. It took six years for 11% more women to be promoted to supervisory boards. Now the federal government has moved up a gear: the new law on managerial positions took effect this week. It no longer concerns only the supervisory board, but the management board. Listed companies and joint-determination companies must appoint at least one woman to their board of directors if it is made up of more than three people.
But what does the top board member of Deutsche Bahn or Telekom bring to normal women who – like most men too – are not about to run a big company? Women outside these large companies, for which women managers have become compulsory, only benefit when management is just as effective outside listed companies.
Of course: Women bosses in multi-billion dollar companies can also be role models beyond their own businesses. And living proof that positions of responsibility in Germany are not just for men. They could show that there are still alternative leadership styles to the leader, in whose hands all decisions pass.
But most women do not know Daniela Gerd tom Markotten personally; she has been a member of the board of directors of Deutsche Bahn since June. Or Birgit Bohle, member of the Telekom board of directors. Role models in your own environment are much more powerful. People you might meet on Sundays when you go for bread, and those who also have a say in your own career. But where does it go without saying that the head of the medium-sized industrial factory is occupied by a woman? That the local public services are headed by a woman, that the executive office of the local savings bank shares a Jochen and a Kerstin? Equal opportunities for leadership positions and sufficient female participation have by no means become widespread.
Savings banks show it. Spread across Germany, the institutes employ 911 board members. If they met in general assembly, only 53 women would enter the room. The rest: men in suits and ties, a consulting firm counted. In a meeting like this, more men would show up with “Thomas” on their nameplate than the female board members.
It only looks slightly better for German mid-sized companies. There, the proportion of women in the management bodies is 13%. Companies bring in a lot of money and are responsible for social life. There is potential in large to mid-sized companies.
The social debate on the number of female bosses focuses too much on large companies. But it is only when equality is everywhere that it makes a difference for the masses. Even on the boards of public enterprises, the proportion of women is currently less than a quarter.
If bosses were to fill their managerial and team leader positions equally in the future, equal opportunities could creep into all the lowlands of the world of work. Then the career starters are also promoted at the same time. And the efforts to end wage inequality are becoming realistic, and from your office, gender equality is also shining through partnerships and families at home. Because it is then quite normal for young men and young women to take parental leave for six months, then perhaps two years part-time – and then be entitled to a full-time position with the same responsibility.