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Podcast with Katharina Herzog

Katharina Herzog, Senior VP Group Finance & Tax, is the perfect example of that having a career doesn't mean giving up your personal life. To manage it all, inner balance is the key to reaching full potential both personally and professionally. Katharina is sharing her story to understand how it's possible today for ambitious women to succeed and achieve their goals.

Photo Katharina Herzog

About Katharina

Katharina has held various positions in the finance department of Hugo Boss AG since 2007. Since 2014, as Senior Vice President Group Finance & Tax, she is responsible for all finance, tax, and treasury functions of the Group. In addition, she has been a member of the Supervisory Board as the representative of senior executives since 2020. Together with her team, she ensures accounting and tax compliance in the Group, develops uniform processes and guidelines for the approximately 60 group entities, and supports internal customers in further developing the operational processes and implementing the CLAIM 5 growth strategy. The continuous development of the finance and tax function with a focus on digitization and standardization of processes as well as employee development has been a focus of her work since the beginning.

Women in finance

Find your inner balance and develop your career

In this podcast, Katharina explains how to create a balance between personal and professional life to continue building her own journey. As a mother and successful business women, she managed to conciliate work and family life by setting down certain rules, and also, thanks to the support of her company. The entire society has a cultural shift to do and there is no exception at work. Employers have their role to do.


Read the Highlights

Finance Background


I always love to introduce myself with some numbers because I'm a number person. The first number is 400: I'm one of 400 employees in the finance division at Hugo Boss. The second number is number 15: that's actually the number of years I'm with the company. So I started 15 years ago. The next number is number four: I held four different positions in the Finance division after joining Hugo Boss. Since 2014, I've held a senior management position as Senior Vice President, Group Finance and Tax, and I'm responsible for all accounting, tax, and treasury topics within Hugo Boss Group. I can really admit, believe it or not, I truly love finance. And this already started 20 years ago in university.

One of my first observations, when I started my career, was that finance, back then and also still nowadays, was not attractive enough for graduates. Many of my fellow graduates joined consulting or went into marketing. Finance had the reputation of being very boring and not attractive enough. And unfortunately, this is still the case today, but I'm over a completely different opinion. Numbers don't lie. And as a finance person, you always get an insight into how business is doing firsthand, and if you do it right, you can really get a close connection with a business. I have an end-to-end understanding of the value chain and proactively support the business and the strategy execution. I wish more young talents would really realize this and not just finance as a pure number crunching exercise. That's also the reason why I always try to spark a passion for what I do and really show that it's interesting to work in finance.

Fortunately, finance has evolved in the last 20 years. It would really be a very sad signal if finance functions would not have evolved in the last 20 years. And it's really interesting that there is a lot of literature outside now stating that finance will embark on the digital finance journey. And the business partner function is a really interesting one. So that helps. But again, at university, people still teach a very old-school way of finance and it's the job of the professional people working in finance to spark the passion for finance.

Working mother


I have a very dedicated opinion on that because I'm a mother of a little girl and I want to be a role model for my little one. Actually, I gave birth to my daughter quite late, so I was already holding the SVP position I'm still holding today. My partner and I came to the agreement that returning to work was the best option for us. I didn't spend 15 years of my life working on my career suddenly after giving birth, giving up on everything I built. No, that's not me. That's why I actually returned quite fast to work only three and a half months after giving birth. That's probably quite normal in France, but this is quite unique in Germany and therefore I had to cope with some doubts and critical questions in my environment. But again, my husband and I already agreed at an early stage that we will handle it and we can make it. We really brought this to life and I'm really grateful that my husband reduced his working hours to 50% in the first month before our little one went to daycare and we really split the work week as partners. I was working two and a half days and then he was working two and a half days and this gave me the opportunity to return to work only three and a half months after giving birth. But I returned part-time. My main observation is that working part-time is the result of being a mother. But I wouldn't say it's a bad result because, for me, I'm still working part-time. I'm working four days a week and this gives me the opportunity to really bring family life and work life into balance. But you really have to be focused and prioritize and spend your time wisely.

Cultural differences


We have a lot of female finance colleagues in our finance family at Hugo Boss and a lot of them are working mums. And shortly after giving birth, I had some conversations with colleagues in Switzerland and the Netherlands, our European neighbor countries. It's quite different because in Switzerland and the Netherlands female colleagues returned to work quite fast and they really couldn't believe that it's such a big deal in Germany. So in this regard, Germany seems to be lagging behind still in an international comparison. In Germany, you have the opportunity to go on maternity leave after giving birth for one year and I would say that the majority of women really use this year of staying at home.

It is very important to have the support of your company regardless of the country. I'm really glad that Hugo Boss is a really progressive employer and they always supported me in my endeavor to return to work after three and a half months. They supported me in finding a daycare. Only in two months will we open our first company daycare on the company premises. I'm really glad that I'm working for such a caring employer and this is really crucial nowadays because unfortunately child care and childcare facilities in Germany are not really advanced and that's quite a stumbling block for a lot of women that would like to return to work after giving birth to a child.

Work-life balance


There is no secret receipt for success or silver bullet. You have to find your own way. Nearly five years after giving birth, I can conclude that you need to agree with your partner that equality doesn't end after giving birth to a child. So child care and taking care of your household is a joint activity. You definitely need to agree on that. You also need to be very wise in spending your time.

 Your day has only 24 hours, the week has only seven days. Spend your time wisely and do a really hard time boxing, learn how to prioritize, and also stick to the Pareto principle. 80% is often good enough, you don't have to aim for 110%. That's what really helped me also to get my inner balance and agree that it's good enough for now.

Gender quotas


I would say setting gender quotas are a part of the solution to increasing the number of women on boards. As I said earlier, I'm a number person and I'm a firm believer that if you set goals, you need to track the process in a measurable way. True to Peter Drucker, “if you can't measure it, you can't manage it”. However, the quota is only one element to increase the share of female colleagues in management positions. If you look at Sweden, for example, 50 years ago, they implemented measures to balance family and professional life. Fathers are contributing a lot to family life, but they're still lagging behind when it comes to the share of female talents and management positions. So in my view, it's a responsibility of all of us as a society as a whole. In some countries, this first requires a cultural change and you need to break up traditional role models and always question the status quo. As I said earlier, in Germany, it's about child care. Young female talents want to have a career and a family and it's not either, they want to have both. But suddenly after giving birth, it's like waking up from a nightmare and you see if you don't have a place for childcare. So what do you do? Some of them really give up and stay at home because they're deeply frustrated. We need to work on creating a more family-friendly environment and also involving fathers more often in childcare.



There are other initiatives that can be set up to help women. Mentoring is really a very good example. There's empirical evidence that 70% of young women feel more confident after hearing from a female role model that it actually works out. And I'm glad to say that I had a female mentor in my early years, she always supported me and she always showed me that it's possible to have both a career and a family because she was a mother of two boys. But it's also trusting yourself and feeling confident enough to try out new ways that could really be established to fellowships and round tables or podcasts. What we actually do right now and it's always really important for the young talents is that they don't copy male colleagues.

It's important to find your own way and be authentic and true to yourself. This is a journey you have to experience yourself and always keep your inner confidence, and mentoring or fellowship could be a good support in this regard.

I had a discussion with a female colleague about men supporting women, and we came to the conclusion that at the beginning, in order to discuss all topics around career progression and compatibility of family and career, it's better to discuss this in a safe environment and probably with someone who really understands your situation, and that's in most cases a woman. But in the second step, we definitely need more men to support female empowerment. We always say we need more women supporters or more mother supporters. But this also includes men. And I'm glad to say that my boss, the CFO for Hugo Boss, absolutely supports me. And this is also for a good reason because he's the father of four girls.

Advice to young women


I said earlier if you want to succeed or to find your place in finance you have to be authentic to yourself and find your own way. Don't copycat your male colleagues and really find your inner balance to unfold your full potential. Because if you decided to go for a career in finance, this is for a very good reason. Probably you already learned a lot at university. Be confident that you can make it. And always try, stay curious, try to learn new things, and the rest will come if you build your inner confidence that you can make it.

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