Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Germany is a great place to live. Everyone can live freely, express their own opinion and practice their religion without facing discrimination. Unlike in many places throughout the world, women have access to (free!) education and to the job market. As a young woman, I am extremely grateful to be growing up in a country where, in theory, women are just as independent as men and enjoy equal opportunity. Our government boasts an admirable woman as chancellor and many important ministers who are female as well. When taking a closer look, however, the situation is not as bright as it may seem.
While girls tend to do much better in high school than their male counterparts and proceed to university in much greater number, the equality slips once they enter the professional world. A 2012 study by the OECD showed that women working full-time in Germany receive 21.6% less compensation than men. How can we explain this?
A simple reason might be that women generally work in fields where they receive less pay. German industry is dominated by engineering, IT and other STEM-oriented fields, which are often more attractive for men. Due to the natural (and governmentally supported) break women take during pregnancy, they are rarely considered for leadership positions, also contributing to this so-called gender pay gap.
What a paradox it is that the government encourages women to have children but makes the combination of family and career difficult. It gets better; the labor minister in Germany is actually female and yet can’t seem to enforce a law for equal compensation.
But gender discrimination is not only about money. It is about recognition. This week, the German writer Sybille Berg wisely noted that when presidents, actors and scientists receive awards, they mention great thinkers like Goethe, Nietzsche, Karl Benz and Albert Einstein. But who ever recognizes Hannah Arendt, Clara Schubert, Bertha Benz, Else Lasker-Schuler, and so many more amazing women who remained unmentioned?
German anti-Nazi advocate and philosopher Hannah Arendt
Germany has come very far in terms of gender equality, but as a strong and modern country we should set an example for the rest of the world and stop drawing a line between men and women. After all, we are all just people trying to make the best out of our lives.
by Pauline Fritz