15 Sep 2017

Angela Merkel has not made it easier for German women to work. Why is that?

Angela Merkel is the exception that makes the rule in Germany. Women there make 21% less than men and hold under 4% of executive positions. Feminism is a bad word in the heartland of the EU and sociologists are openly calling for a women’s movement.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Angela Merkel has not made it easier for German women to work. Why is that? - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Angela Merkel is the exception that makes the rule in Germany. Unlike their Chancellor, women there make 21% less than men and hold under 4% of executive positions in top publically traded companies. Feminism is a bad word in the heartland of the European Union and sociologists are openly calling for a women’s movement.

Wait, what?

We often make this mistake of judging communities by their leaders. So many of us were charmed by social media golden boy Justin Trudeau, for example.

And what was the thought that followed his “because it's 2016” comment to questions about his fantastically diverse government? That Canada must be some kind of liberal Eldorado? Right. But if you ask flesh and bone Canadians, it just isn't that simple.

The more we know about them, the more we as foreign observers of political leaders come to view them as personifications of their countries. Which is silly, really. They represent only a part of a much more complex reality. Any one of the 65,844,954 Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton in the last US elections would tell you that.

And so could Merkel, the leader of a partially post communist country where feminism used to be required by law. That makes the German relationship with gender equality a tense one. This is the case in other countries of the post communist block as well.

There’s a lesson here for all of us. Though we know very little about each other in this puzzle of a union one thing seems to be clear -- women need support all across the continent, regardless of who their political leader is.

Details from the story:

Quote summary from KATRINBENNHOLD'S NYT story:

  • "It is a strange contradiction. Ms. Merkel embodies what feminists the world over have hoped to accomplish, but the rest of Germany has largely not caught up."
  • "There are, in fact, more C.E.O.s named “Thomas” (seven) than C.E.O.s who are women (three) in Germany’s 160 publicly traded companies, notes the AllBright foundation, which tracks women in corporate leadership."
  • "Obliged by law to publish a target for hiring women at the executive level, most happily wrote down '0 percent.' "
  • "But so deep remains the cultural bias against working women, and especially working mothers, that some young commentators now mention Germany’s “gender issue” in the same breath as America’s “race issue” — a piece of historic baggage that has never been fully addressed, elusive and omnipresent at the same time, a sort of national elephant in the room."
  • "When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, female employment in the East was near 90 percent; in the West it was 55 percent. Today, over 70 percent of German women work. But only 12 percent of those with children under 3 work full time."
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Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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