Women lose ground in German finance supervisory boards

FILE PHOTO: The skyline is photographed early evening in Frankfurt, Germany, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Women’s representation on supervisory boards in Germany’s finance sector slipped in 2019, lagging other industries in gender balance, according to a study on Wednesday.

Women held 22.8% of supervisory board seats at banks and 22.2% of those at insurance companies, down from 23.2% and 22.5% respectively the year before, according to the study by the German Institute for Economic Research, or DIW.

The decline contrasts with other industries, where women had an overall 28.2% share of seats, an improvement on the previous year’s 26.9, DIW said.

“It is striking that the financial sector is lagging behind,” Katharina Wrohlich, one of the authors, said in the report.

Female representation on management boards rose slightly to 9.8% among banks and 11% among insurers, up from 8.7% and 9.6% respectively. Women hold 10.4% of management board seats in non-financial industries.

DIW said that a reason for the discrepancy is that people in the financial sector, more so than in other industries, are disproportionately rewarded for working extremely long and inflexible hours, something that benefits men.

In general across various industries, Germany fares better than the European Union average, according to DIW, but is well behind countries like France and Sweden.

Some German companies have set targets to improve female representation.

The online retailer Zalando ZALG.DE, for example, in October announced that by 2023 women should make up at least 40% of top positions, including on its supervisory and management board.

Reporting by Tom Sims, Editing by Thomas Escritt