The Second Glass Ceiling: Women’s Role in Supervisory Boards of German Firms

  • Viktor Bozhinov
  • Christopher KochEmail author
  • Thorsten Schank
Original Article


This study analyzes the role of women on supervisory boards of German companies. In particular, we investigate the likelihood of women to hold senior positions such as (vice) chair of the board and their membership in standing committees. Based on the logic of the lack of fit model, we argue that once women overcome the first glass ceiling and become board members, they still face a second glass ceiling preventing them from gaining senior board positions. We test our hypotheses using a sample of 103 parity co-determined and publicly quoted companies from 2009 to 2016. We find that women directors are underrepresented in senior board positions. This gap is particularly large and even increasing for the position of the board chair. It is also present for the position of the vice chair and (in the case of shareholder representatives) for memberships in standing committees except for the nomination committee. These findings are consistent with the presence of a second glass ceiling. Our study contributes to the literature on the prevalence of women in senior board positions. In particular, we provide novel evidence on the progress of women on boards in a two-tier system with co-determination. One potential implication of our study is that women’s influence on board decision-making might still be limited despite the recent increase of the number of women on boards.


Gender diversity Women on boards Senior board positions Board chair Board committees 

JEL Classification

G34 G38 J16 



We would like to thank Laura Bilavski, Manuel Denzer, Christoph Eschenfelder, Christina Hentrich, Vera Steitz, and Jan Welsch for collecting the data. In addition, we are thankful for the comments of two anonymous reviewers, of seminar participants at the University of Mainz and the University of Tübingen as well as the participants of the XIX. Symposium zur Ökonomischen Analyse der Unternehmung in Frankfurt.

Conflict of interest

V. Bozhinov, C. Koch and T. Schank declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Schmalenbach-Gesellschaft für Betriebswirtschaft e.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Johannes Gutenberg-Universität MainzMainzGermany

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