Retailer Zalando sets target for more women in top management

The Berlin-based online-fashion retailer has announced that at least 40% of its top management jobs will be held by women by the end of 2023.

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
An employee places parcels of online fashion retailer Zalando on a conveyor, June 3, 2019. The Berlin-based company, whose customer base is predominantly female, says it wants at least 40% of its senior managers to be women within four years.

Zalando, Europe's biggest online-only fashion retailer, set a goal on Tuesday for women to hold at least 40% of top management jobs by the end of 2023 after facing criticism for its all-male management board and lack of diversity targets.

The Berlin-based company, whose customers are disproportionately women, said it was aiming for a balanced representation of women and men in its top six management levels by 2023.

"During the past 11 years, we have been very focused on establishing and growing our business, and we didn’t put enough effort into countering structural imbalances that have evolved," said Rubin Ritter, co-chief executive, in a statement.

To help it reach the goal, Zalando said it would make changes to its decisionmaking bodies and committees, change hiring practices, and work on succession planning.

Germany has long been a laggard in promoting women to senior positions in the business world: Women account for only 9% of management board positions in the top 200 companies, according to the DIW Berlin economic institute.

Germany passed legislation in 2015 demanding that women hold 30% of the seats on supervisory boards of large companies. There is no quota for management boards, but some politicians have threatened to impose one here, too, if progress is not made soon.

"The fact that Zalando has recognized the importance of gender diversity in management and has set its own targets is very encouraging," said Katharina Wrohlich, head of the gender economics research group at DIW Berlin.

Jennifer Morgan became the first female head of a German blue-chip company last week as co-CEO of software company SAP. Ailing conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, which has just been relegated from the benchmark DAX index, appointed Martina Merz as interim CEO last month.

Zalando is currently run by a management board of five men, while it has three women out of nine people on its supervisory board – including chairwoman Cristina Stenbeck – and 29% of senior vice presidents are women. 

This story was reported by Reuters.

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