The survey, carried out by the Thomas Reuters Foundation in the G20 (the 20 largest industrialized and developing economies in the world), shows that only 21 percent of German women thought having children would not damage their careers.
Only Japan scored lower, with a paltry 17 percent of women saying they wouldn't be held back by having a family.
Globally the proportion of women who said they could manage career and family at once was 47 percent of the 9,500 respondents in the survey.
Thirty-seven percent of German women said they believed having children would harm their careers, while 46 conceded they think men have better access to the job market.
Additionally, only one in five believe they get the same wage for the same amount of work as men do.
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The results of the survey stands in contrast to Germany's strong level of female employment. At 72 percent, it is the second highest in the G20, second only to Canada.
Progress too slow
But the high level of female employment is misleading, Alexa Wolfstädter, expert in gender policy at trade union Verdi, told The Local.
“One must look more closely at the number of women in employment: only a little more than half are in full time work. The other half work part time or in mini-jobs.”
Most women chose part time work because they have no other way of combining work and family, she explained.
“Either they don't have access to adequate daycare or the employer doesn't offer flexible working hours.”
“Among highly qualified women, the majority put off having children to pursue their careers and then 40 percent decide not to have children at all,” Wolfstädter said.
“This is especially true in west Germany, where it is clear that concerns over child care play a role.”
The fact that this situation is improving at such a slow pace is what has led to the startling survey result, says Wolfstädter.
But she is optimistic that the situation will improve.
“In the future these values will develop in a positive direction, because the government has already passed a series of measures and is preparing others which head in this direction.
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“Employers are also realizing that in light of the lack of specialized workers, it makes sense to offer more family-friendly work conditions.“
Career and kids most manageable in developing world
Perhaps surprisingly, the most positive answers to the question of family and career came from women in developing economies.
In Brazil 74 percent of women said they could combine family and career, followed by Indonesia and South Africa, both 63 percent affirmative.
In France and Britain, on the other hand, women were more pessimistic, with 34 and 18 percent respectively saying kids wouldn't damage their careers.
World Bank expert Henriette Kolb told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that in developing countries women can rely more on the support of their relatives and that it is easier to hire domestic workers on low wages.