December 10th 2015

Women on their way to the top.

"Pinkwashing" or true cultural change?
Claudia Große-Leege, Managing Director of the Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen

Within the scope of the MCI Alumni & Friends series of lectures, the Entrepreneurial School® welcomed the Managing Director of the Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen (German association for female entrepreneurs), Claudia Große-Leege. After making clear that she is not lecturing to meet a certain kind of “female quota”, Große-Leege focuses on the question of whether the women’s way to top positions receives more support today than in the past.

Upon its foundation in 1954 by 30 female entrepreneurs, the Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen was derided and shrugged off as a temporary phenomenon. But today the association comprises more than 1.600 entrepreneurs, who achieve an annual turnover of 85 billion euros and take responsibility for over half a million employees. Operating across sectors and providing its members with active support, it has in fact evolved into the largest special interest group of German female entrepreneurs.

Women have become so-called educational climbers. The number of those who receive higher education and are awarded university degrees increases steadily. Despite this fact, women in top positions are still underrepresented. This underrepresentation is mainly due to the lack of childcare facilities which forces women to work in part-time jobs. Women additionally differ from their male colleagues in their approach to leadership: They are generally less prepared to take risks and focus on employee loyalty rather than ambitious targets for growth.

The quota policy, alluded to at the beginning of the lecture, was established to prescribe a certain proportion of women to work in the bodies of companies which are listed on the stock exchange and subject to co-determination. Große-Leege, however, considers this kind of policy as nothing more than a “necessary evil”, without which the participation of women in executive positions would hardly be possible. Yet the special interest group for female entrepreneurs aimed to grant companies maximum autonomy in the appointment of supervisory or executive board members. The female quota has therefore been fixed at 30 %.

Looking into the future, Große-Leege admits that the quota policy indeed also entails benefits. After all, the female quota helps achieve a critical number of women in executive positions. On the one hand, these women will act as role models for other women. On the other hand, they will facilitate the establishment of a stronger female network. Such a network is required to increase the influence of female executives on the appointment of supervisory or executive board members. The Managing Director of the Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen is convinced that the cultural change has already been induced, but definitely needs further advancement.

Tobias Anslinger, editor at MCI and Managing Editor at the specialist publisher FAZ, moderates the lively discussion sparked by the lecture.