cover photo Reflect Blog
Ingo Kallenbach

What about the women's quota in Germany?

"We're going to get there: a world where gender, race, and background are less important than intelligence, competence, vision and results." (Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook)

Since 2016 there has been a so-called women's quota in Germany. In the case of new appointments to the Supervisory Board, companies must achieve a women's quota of 30%, otherwise the positions remain vacant. This gender quota is aimed at listed companies in which shareholder and employee representatives are equally represented and affects around 150 companies in Germany. The aim and purpose of this law is to achieve equality between women and men in society, politics, culture and business.

Recent studies show that the proportion of women on supervisory boards is currently 28% and that companies are reducing their efforts to promote women as soon as the magic threshold of 30% is reached. Furthermore, initial results show that the hoped-for positive effect of women on the supervisory board does not have an effect on more women on the management board or better promotion of women in the company. Here, the proportion of women in 2018 was just under 8.5% (Spiegel, 2019). Germany also lags behind internationally (12.1 %) (

There is much discussion about the quota for women and the pros and cons of the quota system divide opinions. Therefore, in this article we want to focus on the topic of women in management positions and the quota for women and examine what women do differently in management and why the "glass ceiling" can pose a problem.



How do women actually lead in comparison to men?

In a Norwegian study (Martinsen, 2014), 2,900 managers of both sexes were asked about their personality, from which conclusions were drawn about their different leadership behaviour. Here are the most important differences:

- Women have visions and are able to communicate them.
- Women have a higher emotional intelligence, an important component of leadership.
- Women communicate more clearly and are more likely to seize the
- Women are more likely to initiate innovation and are more curious - they are open to new experiences.
- Women support and involve their employees more - they are very socially responsible and empathetic.
- Women set goals and control their implementation - they are conscientious and work methodically.
- Above all, men are more able to work under pressure and
- Men have great self-confidence and ambition.

Why are there still so few women in management positions in Germany?

One of the most successful women in the world, Sheryl Sandberg, currently COO of Facebook, coined the term "glass ceiling" to describe the rise of women in companies. The "glass ceiling effect" describes the fact that women seem to be kept away from top positions by an invisible mechanism (glass ceiling), even though they have the same qualifications and achievements as their promoted colleagues.

In addition to the "glass ceiling effect," Sheryl Sandberg also clearly holds women to account. A lack of ambition or self-confidence is a widespread phenomenon among women that prevents them from climbing the career ladder.


The quota of women does not show the desired success. Even if a woman makes it into a higher position, she may not be perceived as competent, but rather smiled at as a quota woman. Far more important than the quota are supportive social framework conditions for the compatibility of family and career, as experience from Sweden, for example, shows.

In order to promote women nevertheless, the culture of a company is decisive: If women and diversity in top management are strategically desired, the proportion of women increases significantly, regardless of the prevailing social conditions.

The requirements of the VUCA world with regard to diversity and digitisation are continuously increasing and further stagnation in the development of the proportion of women in German companies is to be seen as critical with regard to international competition. There needs to be a fundamental change in the "mindset" in German corporations.

Crusted structures and adherence to habits are a hindrance for both women and men in order to carry out the necessary change towards a healthy organisation and to ensure competitiveness in the international market environment.



Allbright Foundation: Germany at the bottom of the league: Hardly any women in top management in:, under: (published on 14.05.2018)

Angelovska, N. Female Leadership--'Be Competent Like A Woman And Confident And Ambitious Like A Man': In:, under: (released 23.04.2019)

Bös, Nadine: Glass Blanket: The Women's Quota Works - Differently Than Thought, In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Unter: (Published on 06.02.2019)

German companies do not do more than necessary In: Spiegel online under: (published on 16.01.19)

Eube,Anna: Who are the better bosses - men or women? In: WeltIconist, under: (published on 02.05.2017)

Martinsen, Lund Oyvid, Personality for Leadership, In: BI Business Review, under: (published 20.03.2014)

Kallenbach, I. (2016). Leadership in Healthy Organization. Exceptional performance through potential development. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel

Sandberg, Sherly: Why we have so few female leaders? TEDWomen2010 under:

Zenger, Jack; Folkman, Joseph: Are Woman Better Leader than Men? In: Harvard Business Review, under: (published March 5, 2012)