Women Managers

Not so Lonely at the Top

"We can't return we can only look behind from where we came in the circle game." (Joni Mitchell). Sources: Bloomberg, dpa, private

It’s not a club. There are no membership rolls, no dues, no application form, no clubhouse. Attendance is by invitation only. And it’s not an association. There are no bylaws, no officers, no tax registration. The Merton Circle is an exclusive network of that rare type of German executive – some 30 women who occupy top positions in business.

“We are not a political organization nor a marketing club nor a registered association,” says Tina Müller, who is leaving her post as Opel’s marketing chief to become chief executive of cosmetics retailer Douglas. “We don’t go hiking together or practice yoga.” In short, says one of the trio who started the group three years ago, “We women managers are doing what our male colleagues have been doing for centuries: We are networking.”

Ms. Müller – along with Antonella Mei-Pochtler, a partner at Boston Consulting, and Kati Najpoor-Schütte, a partner at headhunting firm Egon Zehnder – launched the Merton Circle over dinner in November 2014. They were eating in the restaurant in the Villa Merton in central Frankfurt, hence the name. The informal group has grown tenfold since and now includes Dorothee Blessing, head of Germany for JPMorgan Chase; Beatrice Guillaume-Grabisch, head of Germany for Nestlé; Simone Menne, CFO of Boehringer-Ingelheim; Ariane Reinhart, management board member at Continental, and two dozen other highly placed women executives.

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