Female Leaders

Women Bosses Could Boost GDP

Deutsche Telekom – Hauptversammlung
Holding her own: Claudia Nemat, one of the few women in top levels of management in Germany, with her fellow Deutsche Telekom board members. Source: DPA

German business could see substantial growth if women took a greater role in economic life, according to a new report from McKinsey Global Institute, produced for “Chefsache,” a network of leaders from industry, science, the public sector and media. The network was established in 2015 to push for greater gender balance in public life.

According to the report, women contribute some 38 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product, or GDP. The McKinsey report suggests an increase in women working outside the home could add 12 percent to GDP by 2025. This would amount to €422 billion, or around $470 billion. Germany has relatively low female participation in the workforce, compared to other major industrialized nations.

The figures are based on paid employment among women rising from its current level of 54.7 percent to 59.3 percent, and women’s average working week increasing from today’s 30.5 hours to 32.5 hours. The study also foresees women moving away from traditional “women’s jobs,” in favor of particularly productive sectors such as industry and finance.

“A culture of presenteeism and an expectation of full-time working are still rampant among German executives.”

Bernhard Beck, chief personnel officer, EnBW

“Chefsache” – the name translates roughly as “a senior management issue”- thinks there is a particular need for greater female representation in leadership positions. Women currently make up just 12 percent of company directors and executives in the four highest layers of management in German industry. If all supervisory positions are included, the proportion of women rises to 29 percent. But as women’s participation in the workforce has grown, this has not been reflected at the very highest level. The so-called “leadership gap” has actually grown wider.

According to “Chefsache,” flexible work arrangements, job sharing, and working from home are not offered widely enough at the highest levels of management, making things difficult for managers who are also mothers. “A culture of presenteeism and an expectation of full-time working are still rampant among German executives, but this no longer corresponds to the reality of many female managers’ lives,” said Bernhard Beck, chief personnel officer at energy supplier EnBW.

However, managers themselves are partly to blame for problems with workplace culture, since they cling to a “traditional image of careers,” the “Chefsache” report says. For example, although 82.1 percent of executives have the option of reduced working hours, only 14.9 percent actually make use of the opportunity. A wholesale shift from a culture of presenteeism to a culture of achievement is needed, the report suggests.


Frank Specht is based at Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau, where he focuses on the German labor market and trade unions. To contact the author: specht@handelsblatt.com

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