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Supervisory board chair

2020 Germany Spencer Stuart Board Index

2020 Snapshot


years is the age range of chairs

 7.5 %

of chairs are women

Average age

The average age of the chairs is 65, a decrease of two years from 2018. Even so, it again exceeds the average age for shareholder representatives. This is especially true among the DAX companies, where chairs have an average age of 67. The age range is enormous: falling between 43 and 82 years it spans more than one generation.

Our perspective

It is apparent that a chair’s ability to unite and lead a diversely composed supervisory board is central to this key role. Specialist knowledge and sector competence should be underpinned by leadership expertise, diplomatic skills and a desire to drive inclusivity.


Average tenure among chairs is 4,7 years, marking the first drop since 2012. Previously, tenure fluctuated at around 5,5 years. This development is probably attributable to recent changes in chairmanship. The range of tenure among individual chairs is large, ranging from less than one year to 23 years. Among DAX companies average tenure is significantly higher, at 6,2 years.

Average tenure
2012 2014 2016 2018 2020
Tenure (years) 5,2 5,4 5,7 5,4 4,7


There are five female chairs among the total sample, accounting for 7,4% of the total and rising from three women chairs in 2018. In DAX companies, only the board of Henkel has a chairwoman (3,3%). Around 13% of the total chairs are foreign, as they are among the DAX companies. For comparison: internationality among shareholder representatives is more than twice as high, at around 29%.

Our perspective

The requirements of the quota law in relation to women are not yet reflected among the supervisory board chair population. The chairs of supervisory boards covered by the Board Index are predominantly male and German.

External commitments

This year the chairs of the supervisory boards hold on average 2,4 board seats in stock corporations (including private ones). DAX chairs occupy 2,5 on average. The difference seems insignificant, but proportional distribution of the number of board seats varies widely (see table below).

In this analysis chairmanships are not counted twice as legally required with respect to the maximum number of board seats.

Number of board seats held by chairs, 2020
1 seat 2 seats 3 seats 4 seats >=5 seats
Chairs, total sample 31% 26% 28% 12% 3%
DAX chairs 23% 27% 33% 17% 0

While the majority of the chairs of the total sample holds one or two seats, most of the DAX chairs (60%) fill two or three seats. Significantly more chairs in the DAX group than in the total sample hold four seats.

Committee membership

Chairs are highly engaged in committee participation, although the extent has declined. On average, they chair 1,5 committees, which is fewer than the 2,4 committees noted in previous Board Indexes. On average, chairs are an ordinary member of one committee.