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Where are Germany's female entrepreneurs?

Something is happening on the management floors of German companies. More and more women are running the business. However, the ratio of 50 to 50 has only been reached in a few sectors, as a recent study by Creditreform shows.


With a twinkle in its eye, the Allbright Foundation regularly draws attention to the progress made in the equalisation of management positions in the economy. Every year, it counts how many women are at the top of a Dax, M-Dax and S-Dax company - and how many men with the first name Christian. The result is sobering: in spring 2023, there were nine female board members compared to nine Christians. Overall, the proportion of women on the executive boards of the largest German companies is 17.1 per cent. The picture is not complete. After all, the economy is not just made up of corporations, but largely of small and medium-sized enterprises. And in terms of gender equality, SMEs are ahead of the pack, as Creditreform found in a recent study. "Our figures show that around 664,000 small and medium-sized companies in Germany have a woman on the management board. So it is not uncommon to find a female boss in many sectors of the SME sector," says Patrik-Ludwig Hantzsch, Head of Creditreform Economic Research. 23 per cent of small and medium-sized companies in Germany are managed by a woman - without a quota.


664,000 companies in Germany are run by women

22.8 per cent of small and medium-sized companies in Germany are managed by a woman. This is the result of a study by Creditreform Economic Research into the management and executive structure of small and medium-sized enterprises. "Women are significantly more likely to be found at the top management level of small and medium-sized companies than in previous years. In 2011, the proportion of women in top management was only 18.9 per cent," says Patrik-Ludwig Hantzsch, Head of Creditreform Economic Research. "One reason for this development is the general increase in female labour force participation. Women are setting up businesses more often, choosing the path to self-employment and entrepreneurship more frequently," continues Hantzsch. "Our figures show that around 664,000 small and medium-sized companies in Germany have a woman in management. In SMEs, a female boss is no longer a rarity," emphasises Hantzsch.



The Creditreform study also shows that the proportion of companies in which a woman works as an entrepreneur or manager differs only slightly between medium-sized and large companies. Accordingly, female entrepreneurs are slightly more frequently represented in the top management ranks of medium-sized companies than in large companies with a balance sheet total of over 43 million euros (proportion of women: 21.8 per cent).


Healthcare and social services are the domain of women

Broken down by economic sector, female managers are most strongly represented in the "health and social services" sector (51.0 per cent), followed by "other services" such as hairdressers, opticians or interest groups (47.3 per cent). Then come the economic sectors "education and teaching" (36.7 per cent) and "hospitality" (30.4 per cent). Comparatively few women are found in management positions in the construction (7.3 per cent), information and communication (12.5 per cent) and manufacturing (14.8 per cent) sectors. "The reality in the economic sectors often still reflects the classic career choices of the sexes," comments Creditreform spokesperson Hantzsch on the analysis. For example, the assumption of management responsibility in a sector is often linked to one's own professional career.


East German SMEs more often in the hands of women

Auch territorial unterscheidet sich der Anteil weiblicher Führungskräfte. Überdurchschnittlich oft sind Frauen in der Führungsebene in kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen im Osten Deutschlands vertreten, wie beispielsweise in Sachsen-Anhalt (25,0 Prozent), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (24,7 Prozent), gefolgt von Berlin (24,3 Prozent) und Sachsen (24,0 Prozent). Leicht unter dem Durchschnitt liegt der Anteil von Frauen dagegen in Bremen (21,6 Prozent) und Bayern (21,7 Prozent).





Methodology

For the analysis, Creditreform Economic Research analysed the managers of 2.91 million small and medium-sized enterprises. The persons in charge of operations were defined as, for example, owners, managing directors, shareholders or company managers. Small and medium-sized enterprises were defined by the EU Commission as companies with a balance sheet total of up to 43 million euros or fewer than 250 employees. The economic sectors were categorised according to the classification of economic sectors of the official statistics (NACE classification of 2008).

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