Claudia Nemat was standing at the podium in front of a small but influential audience. “We have to talk more about each other,” the member of Deutsche Telekom’s board of management, told the 29 women present at the event in Berlin. She didn’t mean gossip or scandal, but rather that female senior managers should be recommending each other when an executive vacancy opens up.
The executive in charge of Europe & Technology at the German telecoms giant was speaking during a round of discussions with Viviane Reding, the former European Commissioner for justice and now a member of the European Parliament; Angelika Huber-Strasser, a partner at the corporate consultancy firm KPMG; and Jörg Rocholl, president of the Berlin-based private business school, ESMT.
The attempts to get more women into top management roles have not progressed particularly well in recent years. However, in March, the German parliament passed a law stipulating that a minimum of 30 percent of supervisory boards in 108 listed companies be made up of women and the percentage of women in top management also must be increased. Since then, employers have shifted into high gear.
Companies are offering training courses with names such as “All Fired Up with Facts and Care” or “From Coworker to Boss.” They are creating mentoring programs and launching coaching with leadership experts in one-on-one discussions. But do women seeking a high-profile career need this special treatment?
Ms. Nemat is skeptical. She went through a number of courses and seminars for leadership talent on subjects ranging from international management and cooperation to intercultural cooperation. Often, she was the lone woman among men, just as she is an exception in the management circle of Germany’s largest companies.