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Axel Springer AG (Germany): "Chancen:gleich!"

Company Description


Axel Springer AG


Press, Media



Company size:

Employees: >12,800

Total revenue:
EUR 3,184.9 m

EBITDA: EUR 593.4 m


Contact person


Jeremy Dähn
Axel Springer Kundenbindung
+49 (30) 25 91-7 33 06

Project Description

Key Facts

Project Title:


Start of activities:


End of activities:

ongoing (to be continued)

Axel Springer AG is one of Germany’s leading media groups. It is the publisher – among other titles – of Bild Zeitung, Europe’s largest circulation daily newspaper. With 12,800 employees, it has annual sales of over EUR 3 billion.

Main goal

In April 2010, Axel Springer AG launched a new Group-wide project entitled Opportunities:Equal! with the goal over a five to eight year period of roughly doubling women in management positions to around 30% so as to achieve a better balance of women and men in the company’s management.

Group of employees in focus

All employees are targeted without distinction.

Initial situation

In 2010, with women occupying only 16% of executive management positions at Axel Springer, an employee survey highlighted attitudes that suggested more measures needed to be taken to support women’s career advancement.

Women employees saw Axel Springer as having a very male-dominated culture in which young mothers could hardly combine work with family obligations. At the same time, male and female employees alike saw a potential for the company to better foster a work-life balance for ALL employees with children.

Project goals

Project goals reflected the results of the employee survey. They included attracting young, talented people irrespective of gender and the promotion of measures fostering work-life balance for all employees, men and women alike.

Another goal was to highlight how indispensable mixed-gender teams are in order to appeal successfully to women readers.

Project activities

The company has introduced measures enabling employees to better combine their professional and private lives. These include leave options (e.g. parental leave, sabbaticals, care of relatives) along with more flexible working arrangements (e.g. flexible working hours, part time, job-sharing options) and work place arrangements (e.g. home office). The company has also instituted continous communication with mothers and fathers to plan their careers and discuss work arrangements both before and after the birth of a child.

Axel Springer actively promotes moves to improve work-life balance, reflecting the perspectives of their families as well as employees themselves. For example, employees’ children use intranet videos to describe what they think their parents are doing at work. Acting as role models, employees taking parental leave describe their experience on the intranet to encourage colleagues to follow suit. Parenthood is honoured with employees receiving a gift package on the birth of a child.

To show the equal importance of both genders for business success, Axel Springer male employees produced a newspaper on International Women's Day 2012 without the participation of their female colleagues. The result was a paper which lacked the quality, charm and esprit of the newspaper produced daily by male and female colleagues working together.

Personnel policy now explicitly promotes gender equality in both recruitment and development. At executive level, the short list for filling every position must include both a man and a woman. And the company needs to provide detailed reasons signed by a board member for its final choice, whether male or female.


The old male-dominated company culture is giving way to one where family-friendliness plays a major role. Of the additional 84 measures highlighted as necessary by an external job-and-family audit, 50 have already been implemented.

  • From 16% in 2010, the proportion of women in executive posts had risen to 25% by the end of 2011.
  • More senior executives, especially men, now take parental leave.
  • More female executives take the opportunity to reconcile their family and work lives.

Challenges encountered during the project

Achieving a major cultural shift throughout a large company is a challenge that requires stamina to maintain a focus on the long-term goals.While it may be hard to demonstrate the financial benefits, support for the process can be enhanced by highlighting the business benefit.

Another challenge is striking a balance between the interests of employees and the company in such a way that the measures to support work-life balance actually promote the company’s business success.

Lessons learned

Involving all key stakeholders and getting the sustained support of top management are crucial steps.

The presentation of both men and women as role models is important, such as showing fathers taking parental leave and the portrayal of managers as fathers.

Stress the importance of female attributes in supporting cultural change so that women are viewed for their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Set up a system of gender monitoring and review changes made to measure success.


Axel Springer AG was the first media organisation to become a member of the "Women in the Economy Forum", which it joined in 1999.

In 2010, in recognition of its equal opportunities personnel policy, Axel Springer AG was honored with the TOTAL E-QUALITY Seal.

In 2011, it received a certificate from the job-and-family (Berufundfamilie) audit. A new audit is planned for 2014.


back to women mean business



photo showing Dr. Beáta Nagy"If we take meritocracy seriously, we cannot neglect female talent. However, young women need encouragement and support to be ready to enter even the highest echelons of management. It's not a women's issue. The whole of society benefits from the balanced position."

Dr. Beáta Nagy, Associate Professor, Institute of Sociology and Social Policy at the Corvinus University of Budapest (Hungary)

Advocates of the initiative give their opinion: Read here, why it pays off to promote gender equality in business and tap the female talent pool more effectively.