The 2012/05/25 at 05:30
Marie Luginsland, in Spires
“At least one woman in the final selection.” This is what major German companies demand today from Christine Stimpel, Managing Partner of the firm Heidrick & Struggles and Germany Chairman for the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants). “Pressure doesn’t come so much from current public discussion as from the will of industries themselves. They really want to take up the challenge and to introduce more women to their upper management,” she notes. She states that “demand is all the more pressing when it’s a matter of filling chairs in executive boards. In such cases, it is often a matter of finding a female candidate exclusively.”
Generally speaking, these demands are transversal for all branches with the exception of certain sectors such as automobiles or the energy sector, which remain the preserve of males. In addition, as Christine Stimpel points out, it is more and more common that “the contract between the company and the recruitment firm stipulate the presentation of women in the final selection”.
This is nothing short of a revolution as Germany still lags behind in terms of gender equality. As revealed by an OECD survey at the start of March, a 22% gap separates male and female salaries in Germany, whereas the figure is an average of 16% in industrialised countries. And this is without taking into account the issue of female access to positions of responsibility. Out of the thirty companies listed on the DAX (German CAC 40), only nine executive board positions are held by women, and two of these date from this month only!
Still decried in the 1990s, female quotas – practically considered offensive at that time – are today considered to be a beneficial measure for bringing women access to upper-level positions in a country where a shortage in qualified labour can be sorely felt.
Always having had trouble shedding its image as a country where females guard the family hearths, Germany is nevertheless changing, little by little. As part of its evolution, Deutsche Telekom set an example by announcing that by 2013, on an international level, 30% of its middle and upper management positions would be held by women. A close watch on these measures, accompanied by crèche availability and flexible working times, is being kept by other German groups such as HypoVereinsbank. Or else the Metro group, which also wishes to see, in the next two and a half years, 25% of its management positions held by women.
Christine Stimple states that she experiences no difficulties in suggesting suitable female candidates to her clients. “We have on our registers over 12,000 women who entirely meet the criteria of these positions remunerated at upwards of 180,000 euros. These are candidates aged over 35 years, with doctorates and international experience,” she describes. The only obstacle standing in the way of companies is scepticism about female career paths that are often much less linear than those of their male rivals.