EXCLUSIVE In German banking sector, tiny gains for female leadership

FRANKFURT, June 1 (Reuters) – German banks made only marginal gains in increasing female representation in management last year, with women making up just 34.8% of senior positions, figures show of the labor lobby AGV Banken.

The issue highlights the challenges for boardrooms in many industries across Germany. For the financial sector in particular, this is not a good idea as it seeks to win London business in the wake of Brexit, and calls to action from politicians and investors are growing.

The latest data for private sector banks compares to 34.3% in 2019, although progress was made from figures below 10% in the early 1990s.

Recognizing that more needs to be done, banks say they are taking action to promote gender balance, even as staff cuts and major overhauls complicate matters. Some, like Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), have set targets for female representation of 35%, which some critics say is lacking in zeal.

“The financial sector is a male domain. It must be disrupted,” said Cansel Kitzeltepe, member of the German parliament.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group and the Technical University of Munich found that Germany lags behind large economies like Britain and France when it comes to the representation of women on boards. Britain is expected to achieve gender parity on boards in 2034 and France in 2039, but it will be until 2053 for Germany to reach that point.

Nicole Voigt, CEO of Boston Consulting and author of the report, said, “We are half the population… why not equality rather than just 35%?

Berlin is gaining new momentum. In June, parliament plans to pass a law covering 70 large listed companies, requiring boards of more than three members to include at least one woman. Read more

Critics argue the legislation does not go far enough as 10 larger boards would still be required to have only one woman.

“Reality is still behind what is desired despite the legislation of the last decades,” said Bettina Stark-Watzinger, a pro-business Free Democratic member of the German parliament.

Christine Novakovic, head of European operations for Frankfurt-based UBS, said that if a woman wants to be at the top, her family has to play along.

“Unfortunately, it still happens very often that women cannot combine career and family,” she said.

Germany also has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe, according to the German Institute for Economic Research, or DIW.

Female executives in Germany with Unicredit (CRDI.MI) earned 76% of what men earned in 2020, smaller shares than any other country where the bank publishes numbers.

HVB, the German unit of Unicredit, said it had partially closed the pay gap over the past year.

Deutsche Bank announced new gender diversity targets in May after missing some at the end of 2020. The bank now aims to have women make up 35% of CEOs, directors and vice-presidents by 2025, up from 29% currently. Read more

Deutsche said it would monitor “real time” progress to stay on track.

In April, one of Germany’s most prominent female bankers, Carola von Schmettow, retired from managing HSBC in Germany and was replaced by a man. HSBC said it was fully committed to increasing the number of women in senior management, but the episode further highlighted the gender divide.

Lisa Paus, member of the German parliament, calls for strict quotas for women on boards of directors.

“The German banking sector is facing major upheavals and could benefit from a breath of fresh air and more women in leadership positions,” Paus said.

(This story corrects the lowercase spelling in the title)

Reporting by Tom Sims and Patricia Uhlig Editing by Riham Alkousaa

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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