Engender equality

Women in Germany are still massively under-represented in positions of leadership in business, politics and culture, but they themselves contribute to this stagnation

Business women and men

They do, in fact, exist – women in leadership positions in Germany. Janina Kugel and Lisa Davis, for example. And, since the beginning of this year, Birgit Bohles. The first two women are board members at Siemens and the third recently made it onto the board of directors at Deutsche Telekom.

Women in male-dominated domains remain exceptions

There are others, as well: Renata Jungo Brüngger and Britta Seeger, for example, are two management executives at Daimler AG responsible for legal issues and sales and distribution, respectively. Seeger was appointed to the executive board at the automaker two-and-a- half years ago and is now the third woman in the history of the 130-year-old, Stuttgart-based company to occupy a position on its highest governing body. And that says it all: women are pushing their way into traditionally male-dominated domains, but they remain exotic creatures there, embodying the eminent exceptions that prove the rule.

And the rule in Germany is simple: men continue to have much greater opportunities to attain leadership positions thanks alone to their gender. This applies not only to large corporations listed on the stock exchange. It applies equally to the startup sector and to the world of fine arts – in spite of its vast diversity – where a male name above all promises success.

Gender rather than capability determines the career

Of course, there are also some women in leading positions in these worlds. But they are few and far between, and can hardly refute the fact that it’s typically gender rather than capability that determines an individual’s career ascent.

Joana Mallwitz, for example, is a young conductor currently making her way up the ranks as General Music Director at Staatstheater Nürnberg. Still, her budding career is meager consolation to all the hopeful young female artists out there. After all, hardly any other field of work is more sexist than classical music.

Germany is governed by a woman

For almost 14 years now, Germany has been governed by a woman. When Angela Merkel was sworn into office in the Bundestag in November 2005, she made history as the first woman to head up the Federal Republic. A whiff of fresh optimism then wafted over the country with regard to the future of women. Many women saw their chance as having arrived. Today, however, there is no longer any trace of that fresh air.

The number of women in politics is on the decline

On the contrary, the number of women in politics is on the decline, even in the Bundestag. The share of female parliamentarians fell from 36.5 percent in the previous legislative period to 30.9 percent today.

In late 2018, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in Germany, the chancellor lamented the low numbers of women in leadership positions in politics and business. She pointed out that Germany’s current parliament had no more female members than even the national legislature of Sudan.

It is worth noting here that the chancellor never saw herself as a champion of equal opportunity for women, preferring instead to allow others to fight that battle. That is to say she behaved much like many of the other exotic females who’ve made it to the top. Indeed, most of that tribe of women prefer not to talk about the topic and seek to avoid it whenever possible. In no way do they want to be associated with the idea that their gender – not their performance – had anything to do with them reaching their top spot.

Read the whole text on The German Times website

Inge Kloepfer is a contributing writer at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She has written a number of books, including highly acclaimed biographies of conductor Kent Nagano and publisher Friede Springer. The latter earned her the honor of Business Journalist of the Year in 2005.

© The German Times