Companies Struggle to Find Top Female Talent

Dr. Christine Stimpel, Managing Partner at Heidrick & Struggles, was recently interviewed by Handelsblatt, a German newspaper. The interview discussed the difficulties of attracting top female executives in some German organizations. Read the interview below.

Dr. Christine Stimpel is a partner of the global Life Sciences and the global CEO & Board Directors practices. Christine specializes in executive search and leadership consulting assignments for the life sciences and fast-moving consumer goods industry.
Handelsblatt: Mrs. Stimpel, the discussion about the quota is putting pressure on German companies. Are these companies starting to prefer female candidates over males?
Dr. Christine Stimpel: ‘Ensure that there will be a woman on the shortlist’ is an explicit demand of our clients. If a qualified woman is on that list, she has a good chance of getting the job. However, in terms of qualifications, the companies won’t compromise. I must say that I have never experienced a case where a less qualified female manager has been placed only because she is a woman. Every company knows that this would lead to a disaster.
Handelsblatt: How difficult is it to find qualified candidates?
Dr. Christine Stimpel: It depends on the industry and the position. It is fairly easy in  the consumer and communications industry, just like in human resources or marketing. In those industries, there are traditionally many women in leadership positions. There, we would almost need a quota for men. For engineering oriented industries and functions, it is much more difficult. There we have to turn every stone to find qualified and interested women.
Handelsblatt: Recently, a number of non-German female candidates have been placed on Management boards and Supervisory boards. Are the female candidates in other countries better qualified?
Dr. Christine Stimpel: By placing a non-German woman, the companies capture two diversity issues in one go. The amount of female candidates in other countries is larger, but it is usually very difficult to convince them to move to Germany.
Handelsblatt: Are women generally less mobile and therefore not as successful?
Dr. Christine Stimpel: Female candidates think really hard before changing companies. Compared to male candidates, they decline more often. They are not always ready to take the risk of a job change for more money or a step up in their careers.
Handelsblatt: This sounds as if women are not brave enough for top careers?    
Dr. Christine Stimpel: They are just more cautious. Often, they have children and a husband with his own career ambitions. A change of location is much more difficult for them compared to a man with a housewife.
Handelsblatt: She can move without problems to other locations, like other countries or small towns far from the cities?
Dr. Christine Stimpel: Usually, yes. Many medium-sized companies in Germany are located in places far away from major cities. Particularly, family companies often insist on their managers living near the site, with their families. This is a problem for female managers. Due to these issues, many of the firms cannot attract highly qualified female managers. This could be changed.
About Dr. Christine Stimpel

Dr. Christine Stimpel is a partner of the global Life Sciences and the global CEO & Board of Directors practices.

Christine specializes in executive search and leadership consulting assignments for the life sciences and fast-moving consumer goods industry. During the last 16 years, she has completed appointments ranging from CEOs and board members, general managers and other senior positions for a diverse group of domestic and international clients ranging from large international enterprises to privately held, medium-sized firms. She has special expertise in advising clients on the different professional cultures and needs in order to attract candidates to accept a new appointment within a different region of the world.

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