Women in Management Positions Five Portraits

Alone among men
Alone among men | Photo (detail): © Tyler Olson / Fotolia.com

Making a career in a big business enterprise is not easy for women in Germany. Although women are still somewhat underrepresented when it comes to management positions, females in executive management positions do in fact exist. The following five portraits focus on successful business women who have also taken a stand politically.

Claudia Nemat – a female executive in a male domain

Claudia Nemat Claudia Nemat | © Deutsche Telekom AG Since October 2011 Claudia Nemat has been a member of the board at Deutsche Telekom, where she is in charge of European operations. The 1968 born manager is head of a division in which other members of her sex are rather thin on the ground. Asserting oneself in a classic male domain is nothing new for this mother of two who studied theoretical physics and mathematics. Before she took up her position on the board at Telekom Ms Nemat used to be a senior partner at the McKinsey management consultancy, where she specialised on the information and telecommunications sector and was responsible for the markets in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. She furthermore focused on management and performance culture issues and on the significance of diversity management for the success of the company. “Several different management styles are combined in mixed-gender teams,” says Claudia Nemat.

Mixed-gender teams improve the quality of decision making. In other words, “Male teams work better when a few women are in them.” Nevertheless Ms Nemat is not an advocate of a statutory gender balance for business as she recently announced in an interview. A statutory women’s quota would be at best only a temporary solution – only in the case of nothing else working.

Julia Jäkel – the mighty media manager

Julia Jäkel Julia Jäkel | © Gruner + Jahr © UVK Since April 2013 Julia Jäkel has been executive chairwoman at Gruner + Jahr, Germany’s largest magazine publisher, making her one of the most powerful media managers in the country. The Hamburg publishing house, that also publishes one of Germany’s top news magazines, Stern, and one of Germany’s top women’s magazines, Brigitte, has an annual turnover of more than two billion euros. Jäkel, born in 1971, studied history, political science and economics at the University of Heidelberg and at Harvard. In 1997 she started as a trainee at another German publishing house, Bertelsmann. In the meantime she is with Gruner + Jahr where in 2012, after various positions in the company, she eventually became a member of the executive board.

In response to the question what things really get her back up, the mother of two answered, “The one thing that really exasperates me – is the fact that women who decide against having a career are respected less. And the fact that mothers who return to work immediately after having children are also looked on rather negatively.” On a professional level, too, Julia Jäkel is not afraid of facing conflict. In December 2012 she announced that Gruner + Jahr would be discontinuing three of their publications Financial Times Deutschland, Impulse and Börse Online. More than 3,000 employees lost their jobs. Jäkel was publicly bombarded with criticism for her decision, but somehow weathered the storm. “Ducking out,” she said, “would have been inappropriate for me.”

Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt – unrelenting in her fight for justice and integrity

Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt | © Daimler AG In February 2011 Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt became the first woman to be appointed to the executive board of the Daimler Group. She has a doctorate in law and actually worked before as a judge at the German Constitutional Court from 1999 to 2011. Since 2011 at Daimler however she has been responsible for the promotion of justice and integrity at the company that employs more than 270,000 people all over the world. This means that it is her job to ensure that all the employees and business partners stick to the letter of the law and to the company’s fair play rules.

Before Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, born in 1950, moved to the German Constitutional Court, she was first a social welfare judge, then head of social services in Frankfurt and then she eventually became Minister of Justice and Minister of Science and Technology for the government of the Federal State of Hesse. Her motives have always been the same ones says this mother of two children who in the meantime have grown up. “Counterbalancing inequalities, respecting others and setting up clear strategies that can be adhered to.” She does not challenge the fact that she was described by the media as Daimler’s “quota woman” with whom they would be able to clean up their image. Furthermore, “ I am personally for a gender balance quota,” she said in an interview, stating that it was her “private opinion” and that she was “not speaking on behalf of the company.”

Lencke Wischhusen – the young entrepreneur

Lencke Wischhusen Lencke Wischhusen | © BJU / Anne Kreuz Since 2012 Lencke Wischhusen has been the Federal Chairperson of the Bund junger Unternehmer (Federation of Young Entrepreneurs) - an organisation that sees itself as a lobby group and mouthpiece for a younger generation of entrepreneurs. In addition this 1985 born woman from Bremen is also the managing director of W-Pack Kunststoffe GmbH & Co. KG, a company specialising in packaging materials that has an annual turnover of 15 million euros and employs about 50 people. Ever since she was a child Lencke Wischhusen had always known she would one day work for her father’s company. After doing a traineeship in wholesale and export sales and a course of study in business administration she joined the company at the top and became the head of W-Pack at the age of 24.

The Chairperson of the Federation of Young Entrepreneurs thinks a gender balance quota is the wrong path to take, “For the quota interferes with the way we run our businesses and is an unnecessary regulation of the labour market.” The fact that women’s careers used to come to an abrupt halt due to the so-called glass ceiling no longer poses a problem for the younger generation of businesswomen. “I think the image in society has completely changed now and the more modern styles of management now rely much more on communication. The differences don’t really exist anymore and that is why I think that the glass ceiling will soon be a thing of the past.”

Stephanie Bschorr – champion of the gender balance quota

Stephanie Bschorr Stephanie Bschorr | © vdu Stephanie Bschorr, born in 1966, has been president of the Verband Deutscher Unternehmerinnen (Association of German Businesswomen), since 2012. The association has a membership of 1,200 businesswomen and, led proudly by its president, it campaigns relentlessly for statutory quotas for women in business. At the same time Stephanie Bschorr is also an entrepreneur herself. As managing director of HTG Wirtschaftsprüfung, an auditing and tax consultancy, she employs a staff of 70.

For a long time she was actually against any form of statutory regulation. Then however she arrived at the conclusion that a social rethink could only be brought about by massive intervention like the introduction of a statutory gender balance quota, as she once said in an interview. In 1992, after completing her studies in law Ms Bschorr, started work as a legal advisor at HTG WIrtschaftsprüfung, the auditing and tax consultancy. Today the mother of two owns 30 per cent of the company - a company in which, she says, there are “no gender issues”. This is illustrated by the fact that at all levels management it is simply a matter of course for men to take parenting leave or to go part-time - it is this kind of normality that Stephanie Bschorr would like everybody in the country to enjoy.