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Why everyone benefits when women take supervisory board positions

I recently spoke with two fantastic Supervisory Board Members – Ann-Kristin Achleitner and Manuela Rousseau – to ask them if there’s a recipe for becoming a Supervisory Board member– and how accessible a career at this level is to today’s women.

Both Ann-Kristin Achleitner and Manuela Rousseau have held high-level supervisory board positions for over 10 years; Ann-Kristin is a distinguished board member of various organisations such as Linde, MunichRe, Lazard, and of Investcorp's International Advisory Board. She has also served on other boards such as Metro, Deutsche Börse and Engie. Ann-Kristin holds the esteemed position of Distinguished Affiliated Professor at Technische Universität München, combining academic excellence with practical expertise.

Manuela meanwhile joined the Supervisory Board of Beiersdorf in 1999 and has co-chaired it since 2019.

What was so great about speaking to them both together was that between them they cover two different supervisory board-member perspectives, representing both employees (Manuela) and shareholders (Ann-Kristin).

This conversation was not recorded, but they allowed me to share a few takeaways:

Both highly recommend the experience of taking on a Supervisory Board position – it really expands your horizon, both in terms of your own career, and in terms of understanding your organisation.

Also – while you clearly need to have the requisite qualifications, your experience in different fields is your most important asset – there are limits to how much you can prepare for a role like this through further education or reading.

Having women take these positions has a far-reaching impact. On the one hand it means more inclusion within the Supervisory Board; on the other it has a diversity impact on the whole company.

We talked about which policies can really make a difference; how important it is that men who go on parental leave are not penalised for it; and how individual board members can bring about change by setting up diversity & inclusion initiatives in their companies, like Manuela Rousseau did for Beiersdorf – they have set themselves a 50-50 gender parity goal at all Leadership management levels below the board, and have rolled out the MyCollective programme for parental leavers across the whole company globally. Manuela also pointed out that men have more opportunities now to define male success too, which is good for everyone: men and women.

Thank you both for the new perspectives and inspiration ❤️

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