An extraordinary careerA hundred years ago, the idea of a woman occupying a management post was simply inconceivable – which makes the career of Marie Busch all the more remarkable. She began her professional life at a predecessor company of Siemens Healthineers at the end of World War I and retired as a member of the management board over 40 years later. It‘s well worth taking a close look at Marie Busch’s career, which was extraordinary for the era in which she lived.
Educational background – Basis for later success
Marie Busch, also known as "Mia," the daughter of the manufacturer Karl Ernst Busch and his wife Emilie, née Gissler, was born in Remscheid, Germany on January 21, 1894. At the time, there were various independent toolmakers named Busch in the area, many descended from a long line of manufacturers. Marie Busch most likely came from one of these families and was thus familiar with the day-to-day business of an industrial company from a young age. Busch received the typical education of "highborn" daughters in this period: after completing primary school, she moved to a lyceum in 1903, and from 1910, she was enrolled in a private course to prepare for her final school-leaving examination. In 1914, she took the examination at the Röntgengymnasium secondary school in Lennep, as an external candidate – no doubt because girls were not allowed to attend the school at the time. Coeducation was not yet widespread.
Love of law – never losing sight of her goal
Also in 1914, Marie Busch began studying business at the Cologne Business School, from which she graduated in February 1916 with a degree in business administration and the overall grade "very good". Looking back after she retired, Busch said, "I had always loved law. Since women were not allowed to take the state examination in law in those days, and I was nevertheless determined to get that qualification, I did my degree in business administration – not realizing that the semesters in Cologne would not count towards the law doctorate. With the war forcing me to complete my studies quickly, I decided to pursue a doctorate in political science, focusing mainly on legal topics, as advised by my professors."
Marie Busch thus moved to the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Heidelberg, where she studied law and political science until 1918. She obtained her doctorate in May 1918, after completing a dissertation on industry in Remscheid during the war.
One of her professors later said of her:
In this [dissertation], as in the rest of her work, Dr. Busch has skillfully combined practical powers of observation with theoretical analysis. Special mention must be made of her understanding of legal matters based on her excellent knowledge of the subject, which was particularly evident in her doctoral examination.
From management assistant to head of the legal and tax legal department – A way up the career ladder
Marie Busch also demonstrated great single-mindedness when it came to landing her first job. A few months after completing her studies, she applied for a position working for Karl Zitzmann, then head of the management board of the Erlangen-based medical engineering company Reiniger, Gebbert & Schall (RGS). The 24-year-old’s application was successful, and she started her job as management assistant on October 15, 1918. In this position, she worked primarily in the field of tax and commercial law.
Busch's career continued to flourish following the merger of RGS with the electro-medical department of Siemens & Halske. In 1925, she moved to the new joint marketing company Siemens-Reiniger-Veifa (SRV) in Berlin, where she became head of the legal and tax department. With her new responsibility, she received power of attorney in February 1929. She also remained in this position after the founding of Siemens-Reiniger-Werke (SRW). In June 1936, Busch was promoted by the supervisory board to authorized signatory. This appointment put her – together with management board members Max Anderlohr and Theodor Sehmer – at the helm of the company.
Return to Erlangen – HR manager at SRW, management board member of INAG
In October 1944, when various departments were relocated, Marie Busch was transferred from Berlin to Erlangen. Back in Germany’s Franconia region, she headed the personnel department – first for SRW Erlangen and then, after the war, for the entire company. In 1950, she became a member of the management board of Industrie-Unternehmungen AG (INAG), a subsidiary of SRW. Busch held both positions until September 1959, when she retired after over 40 years of service.
Highly qualified – And respected by the workforce
It’s not easy to describe Marie Busch’s character. Largely as a result of World War II, the MedArchiv in Erlangen contains only a few documents that can shed any light on her personality. When asked by the MedArchiv in 1964 to supply her "biographical data," Marie Busch noted, "It was rather difficult to put this [information] together, as I lost almost all my papers during the war and thus cannot always provide exact dates […]".
However, the few documents that exist give a picture of an ambitious and highly-qualified woman who, having attained high-ranking positions, helped shape the predecessor companies of Siemens Healthineers and succeeded in overcoming the social obstacles facing women at the time.
When Marie Busch died on December 10, 1964, following a serious illness, the CEOs of SRW and INAG wrote, "Dr. Busch had outstanding professional knowledge which enabled her to carry out her responsibilities exceptionally well. She was a distinctive personality, highly educated and with a wide range of interests, who is inseparable from the history of Siemens-Reiniger-Werke. With the personal interest she took in all those with whom she came into contact through her work, she was well-liked and greatly respected by all. We will not forget her.
Dr. Florian Kiuntke