Conviction. More Self-Confidence.
There are only a few like her at the very top. Dr Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt belongs to the small group of women on company boards in the automotive industry. In February 2011, the Doctor of Law was appointed to the Daimler AG board and is responsible for the newly created area of Integrity and Legal Affairs. She talks about women in executive suites dominated by men, about rules and the power of persuasion.
In the 125-year history of Daimler, you are the first woman to sit on the management board and one of only a few female board members in any DAX company. How has this been for you?
Very good, everyone has been friendly and open. And it’s nothing new for me as a woman to work in an environment dominated by men. When I did my law degree in Tübingen, we were only a handful of women out of 180 first-year students. It was the same in my professional life, for example when I was the Minister of Justice in Hessen or working in the Federal Constitutional Court as a judge.
Are you satisfied with the advancement of women at Daimler?
I was extremely pleased to discover what measures already exist in the group to ensure the advancement of women. Mentoring programmes, part-time working arrangements and childcare are part of an established support network at Daimler, in order to achieve our stated objective of increasing the proportion of women in leading executive positions to 20 per cent worldwide by 2020. In a company with lots of engineering professions, in which men are disproportionately represented in the degree courses, this is a very ambitious goal. The appraisals and bonuses of executive managers hinge on achieving it. That is a clear incentive.
What would you advise young women starting out on their career? What qualities do they have to show?
Basically, the formula for success is the same for women as it is for men. If you can prove your worth through your skills and your personality, you are best-placed to succeed. In my opinion, it is equally important to be single-minded. And particularly for women I would like to add: to have more self-confidence! If you believe you can reach your goals, others will believe you too.
Did you, or do you have female role models?
I am impressed by successful women such as Jutta Limbach who have stayed true to themselves, who are known for being straightforward, who do not hide their femininity and who campaign for gender equality.
At Daimler, you are now responsible for the newly created area of Integrity and Legal Affairs. What is particularly important to you in this regard and what goals have you set yourself?
My job is to make sure that legislation and internal regulations are complied with, and that compliance follows out of conviction, not necessity. It’s important to me that we don’t simply follow rules because, say, sanctions are threatened, but because of an innate feeling of wanting to do what’s right. Rules don’t just limit us; they give us scope to work within these limits. Rules are necessary for fair play – in private as well as business life.
What principles are important to you personally? What are you guided by?
My fundamental principles are to respect everyone’s personality and to be tolerant to those who think differently to you. Moreover, I believe it’s very important to act responsibly, to be ambitious and straightforward, and to
have a caring approach.
How significant is compliance for a multinational company such as Daimler AG?
Sustained business success and business ethics are two sides of the same coin. We are convinced that shared values provide a better path to shared value creation. Because of varying legislation in different countries, multinational companies require universally applicable values and standards of behaviour.
How do you deal with differing views on integrity, business ethics and legal requirements in Europe, the USA and Asia? How is it possible for a globally operating company to reconcile these?
Our corporate culture is a cornerstone of our day-to-day business. It establishes a foundation of shared values and fosters a common appreciation of right and wrong among our employees. Only those who adopt a systematic approach to business ethics will survive in today’s competitive global environment. And, of course, we comply all applicable and international laws and guidelines.
Are you interested in cars? What was your first car? And what do you drive now?
Of course, I’ve always enjoyed driving cars. My first car was a Beetle, which was followed by plenty of others, including several Mercedes. My last car was a red BMW. And now, I got into a Daimler car again, in an S-Class Mercedes. Not only is my car very convenient, but it’s also a pleasure to drive.
Portrait of Dr Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt
Dr Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt was born in Leipzig in April 1950. She studied law in Tübingen and started her legal career in 1975 as a lecturer in social law at the University of Hamburg. In 1977, she became a researcher at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, where she gained her doctorate in 1979.
In the 1980s, Hohmann-Dennhardt worked as a judge at various social courts in Hessen and as Frankfurt’s councillor for social affairs, young people and housing. She moved into regional politics in 1991, first becoming the Hessen Minister of Justice and then from 1995 the Minister of Science and the Arts. In 1999, she was appointed to the Federal Constitutional Court, where she ruled on many important proceedings before her departure in 2011. These included the equal recognition of family work and employment, the Civil Partnerships Act, the ‘secret paternity test’, the right of single mothers to childcare support and the Transsexuals Act. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt is married and has two children.