German women fall short of equality

Felix Reimer
Felix Reimer - [email protected]
German women fall short of equality
Still a man's world: women in Germany find it hard to rise as high as Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA

Women in Germany are still underrepresented in leadership jobs and among professors, a new government report said on Wednesday. They are also paid less and remain unlikely to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics.


"Despite equal rights, there are still differences in the day-to-day life of women and men in Germany. In some areas of life, women and men have moved closer together. In others, differences continue to exist," said chief statistician at the Federal Statistical Office Roderich Egeler in a statement.

Only two areas in the world of work featured a female majority of executives - education, and health and social services. In all other sectors, less than a third of leadership positions are held by women.

Few female leaders

Overall, women made up 29 percent of executives in Germany. That number is on the lower end among EU members and far below France (40 percent) or the UK (34 percent).

At the same time, the number of women in the workforce jumped from 56 percent in 1992 to 68 percent in 2012. The percentage of men working was virtually unchanged over the same period.

But only 55 percent of women held full-time jobs, compared to over 90 percent for men. In part, that is because seven out of ten mothers with underage children reduced their workload, compared to fewer than one in ten fathers.  

East German women paid more

The report also found a wage gap between the genders. While men earned on average €19.84 an hour, women only made €15.56.

The statisticians have tracked the difference since 1995. "During this period, the so-called gender pay gap has been larger than 20 percent almost all the time," they said.

The gap was highest in Baden-Württemberg, where women made 27 percent less than men, and smallest in Saxony, with four percent. Saxony's number reflects a continued divide between East and West: In the East German states, women were paid eight percent less, compared to 23 percent in the rest of the country.

"Two thirds of the income disparity can be explained with structural factors," Egeler said. Women often had jobs with fewer responsibilities or lower qualification requirements, for example.

"After taking these factors into account, an income disparity of €1.27 remains, resulting in an adjusted gender pay gap of seven percent," said Egeler.

Female students, male teachers

But thanks to higher qualifications, female executives are likely become more common - and women's pay better - in the future.

Girls are now more likely than boys to leave school with higher qualifications. Almost 55 percent of those getting the German Abitur - the standard requirement for entering university - are female. At the same time, less than 40 percent of school leavers without any qualification are women.

But while females made up a small majority of students in 2012, the report found they had been slow to break into male-dominated subjects. Only two in ten engineering graduates and four in ten in mathematics and natural sciences were female.

Regardless of the students' gender, they were also likely to be taught by a male professor. There were only 9.000 female professors in Germany in 2012, compared to 43.900 men in the same position.

 "That means 20 percent of professors at German universities were women. But compared to ten years ago, that reflects a significant change to the benefit of women. In 2002, their share had been only 12 percent," Egeler said.

Even in subjects were students were overwhelmingly female, professors tended to be male. More than three quarters of those enrolled in cultural and language studies were women, for example, but only a third of their professors were.

The higher a position in the academic food chain was, the less likely it was to be filled by a woman. While 45 percent of all PhD graduates in 2012 were female, just 27 percent of those who submitted a habilitation dissertation - the next step on the academic career ladder - were women.

The report did not analyze the reasons for the differences.

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