Nadja Lang

Nadja Lang has been CEO of ZFV-Unternehmungen since June 2021. Prior to this role, she served for four years as a member of the Supervisory Board, and at
times, as its chairperson. With a background in business administration, she started her professional career in 1999 at The Coca-Cola Company, where she held various leadership positions in brand management and innovation. She then worked as the
European Marketing Manager for brand and innovation strategies at General Mills Europe in London and Nyon. From 2005 to 2017, she worked for Max Havelaar, initially as the Commercial Director and later as the CEO. Additionally, she serves as a Supervisory Board member of Emmi and Pax Life Insurance.

«Isolated promotion of women is an outdated model»

What trends do you see in how leadership is evolving in the age of digitization, artificial
intelligence, increasing individualisation among employees, and agility?

Adaptability and the emphasis on human skills and competences are becoming even more important. The way in which leadership is understood and implemented remains a defining element of the corporate culture. ZFV relies on OKR (objectives and key results), an agile management method, to work effectively on visions and strategies. Our teams organise their contribution in a self-determined way, which strengthens corporate responsibility and promotes a culture of innovation and inclusion.

Currently, companies are meeting the gender guidelines with 30% female representation in the Supervisory Boards and 20% in the Executive Boards. From your perspective, what is next in the generational project of gender diversity after reaching this milestone?
I am convinced that new approaches are needed: Isolated promotion of women is an outdated model. Even young men, for example, are often insufficiently considered in their needs today. However, we need further changes in corporate cultures for this. We must once again focus more on «together with everyone». Through an inclusive corporate culture, we aim to provide development opportunities for people with diverse life paths in general.

The share of women on your Executive Board is already above the required minimum of 20%. How have you achieved this and what other goals are you pursuing?
The promotion of women is part of the identity of ZFV. Our founders advocated vigorously for women’s rights in the catering industry over 130 years ago. This historical foundation still shapes us today. Through an internal talent management program, we specifically promote employees for the next higher level. When a woman is in a leadership position, it is crucial to offer work time models such as job sharing or part-time options, where family time does not hinder career advancement.

According to our surveys, the women who left their Executive Board positions last year only remained in office 3 years. What measures has your company taken to ensure a high retention of female managers?
I have two hypotheses: First, women may prefer a different corporate culture. Simply promoting a few women to management positions is not enough to bring about cultural change. Secondly, women probably set different priorities and are more likely to move on if things are not right for them. This is favoured by the fact that they are often not sole earners, there are tax disadvantages for dual earners and childcare costs are often very high. New political framework conditions are needed here.

You mention the framework conditions that are needed to promote diversity. What exactly do you mean by this from a company perspective?
A corporate culture characterised by strong values and an inspiring vision is key. It is effective if it is authentic, creates a positive and respectful working atmosphere and is lived within the company. Influencing factors are, for example, leadership principles that are developed and implemented in a participatory manner with employees and a diverse team. In terms of working time models and support, it is also important to have young parents on the radar. I often encounter that this topic concerns young men as well. As a company or society, we need to invest more in «parental leave and individual support» instead of «maternity leave and the promotion of women».