Germany is one of the world’s most developed countries. In 2017, it placed fourth in the world in terms of nominal GDP and has the largest economy in the European Union. Germany’s Grundgesetz (Basic Law) declares that “women and men are equal and that the state has to promote substantive, de facto, gender equality.” Yet, Germany lags behind in making gender equality a reality. There are several important facts to know about women’s rights in Germany.
4 Facts About Women’s Rights in Germany
- Gender Pay Gap. The “difference in average gross hourly earnings between men and women,” also known as the gender pay gap, stood at 18% in 2020 in Germany. In comparison with the EU average of 13%, Germany places among the most unequal countries in the EU. Experts attribute the gender pay gap to differing career path choices, with females typically taking on lower-paying jobs. Further, persisting traditional gender roles in German society mean women work fewer hours in order to manage “childcare and housekeeping responsibilities.”
- Women’s Quota. As Germany’s previous chancellor Angela Merkel illustrated with her doctoral degree in quantum chemistry, many German women have higher education qualifications. Yet, far fewer women occupy executive-level jobs in comparison to men. Despite an upward trend in recent years, women on supervisory boards remain a clear minority with 33% in Germany’s major companies in 2018. Building off of the “30[%]voluntary quota for supervisory boards introduced in 2015,” in June 2021, Germany introduced a draft law “to impose gender mandatory quotas at its largest listed companies.” The quota specifies that “boards of German listed companies with more than three members” must have at least one female member. Furthermore, “Companies in which the federal government has a majority stake will also have a mandatory quota of 30[%]of female board members.” Nationally and internationally, people view this policy as a milestone for women in management and a message of equality in society and the workplace.
- STEM. In 2015, in the field of non-academic research in Germany, women accounted for just 35.4% of scientific staff members — “the second-lowest figure in the EU,” after France. According to many female scientists, these figures stem from a lack of state support, such as too few childcare facilities, as well as blatant sexism and ignorance of women’s rights in Germany “by superiors who favor men.” Komm mach MINT is “a nationwide network of women in [STEM]” that aims to encourage young women to consider careers in STEM and thereby increase female representation in STEM professions in Germany. The network came about in 2008 and receives annual support of €3.2 million from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
- Domestic Violence. According to a survey that the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) conducted, “every fourth woman in Germany has experienced domestic violence at least once in her life.” In 2002, Germany put into law the Protection Against Violence Act, allowing the “police to take immediate and pre-judicial measures to protect” women from their perpetrators. Further, the national Hilfetelefon “Gewalt gegen Frauen” (Violence against Women helpline), established in 2013, offers 24/7 support to support women affected by violence. In 2021, the hotline had about 81,600 callers and managed to help and support about 29,500 violence-affected people.
While gender quality oftentimes appears as an arduous issue to tackle, Germany is taking the right steps with national legislation for female representation in supervisory positions, initiatives to connect young women with STEM careers and providing national and immediate support for female victims of domestic violence. Should these policies live up to their potential, improved rights for women in Germany would manifest in an increase in GDP from €1.95 trillion to €3.15 trillion by 2050.
– Pauline Lützenkirchen