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The “war for female talent”

The “war for female talent”—and how we can win it


by Arne Adrian, Managing Director PAWLIK Consultants


On January 6, 2021, the cabinet approved the women's quota as expected. In the future, at least one woman must sit on the boards of companies that are listed and that have equal codetermination with more than three members. What does this mean for personnel consulting?

To put it bluntly: this will not turn the participation of women in top positions in the German economy on its head. Just under half of the companies affected by the rule do not have a female manager on their management board. However, even though this is alarming, it is “only” a matter that concerns a relatively small number of companies.

What is interesting, though, is that this step alone poses a huge problem for recruiting. The search for top female candidates is in full swing. Headhunters are feverishly doing all they can and pulling out all the stops. Companies are putting more and more money on the table. This has led to the few courted candidates being nicknamed “gold skirts”.

Three propositions to solve this:

1. The greatest potential lies within our own ranks

For most companies, the greatest potential lies within their own ranks when considering a woman for a board position. Therefore, medium- or long-term personnel development must be aimed at integrating female talent on an equal footing and selecting more prospective female board members.

2. Help women develop earlier—special support programs for women are an anachronism

I think support programs for women are wrong. This label would only reinforce the hidden reservations of the predominantly male decision-makers. If we assume that women are at least as suitable as men are, then they should be invited to personnel development measures in equal numbers and be prepared there for future tasks.

If we want to take the idea of “equal opportunity” seriously, we have to get away from talking about female and male competencies. Of course, there remains a difference between the sexes. Women often resolve conflicts in a more factual and results-oriented manner than men and are less inclined to dramatically overestimate themselves. However, that is a task for individual personnel development approaches, not gender-specific ones.

Women must no longer be prepared for the male-dominated company boards. Many female managers have long since seen through the male systems of gaining and maintaining power and intuitively know how best to navigate this field. As a male consultant, what else can I teach a woman? Nothing.

3. New competencies are in order for all—servant leadership

We all know that the new world of work, especially leading from a distance, requires different competencies. Motivating people from a distance, agreeing on goals with them and accompanying them on their way is much more difficult if you can only contribute your “personal skills” to a limited extent because you cannot utilize the impact of your personality virtually. However, men and women are on the same level in such a situation. Everyone has to learn.

Servant leadership, in particular, is a less developed competency among many board members. Leadership loses the obviousness of hierarchical performance as such and shifts to a role in which a leader creates a concrete benefit for the employees and helps them fully utilize their potential. Due to decision-making processes becoming faster and the growing complexity of requirements, more than just good role models and supervision are needed. Leadership is not a supervisory function. Managers must learn to create the right environment for employees so that they can make the best decisions.

For us, “making it happen” means helping you turn your company goals into results. We transform organizations into coherent systems and develop the personal potential of employees. We use the latest scientific research results as a basis for this.

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For us, “making it happen” means helping you turn your company goals into results. We transform organizations into coherent systems and develop the personal potential of employees. We use the latest scientific research results as a basis for this.

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