Gender Equality? We Are Not Finished Yet

Why it is good, but far from sufficient, for women to be in top positions (and why this can be even counterproductive while reaching real equality)

At the turn of the year it was proclaimed again: “The Decade of Women”, or even “The Century of Women”. The line-up at the levers of power serves as evidence of this epochal change: Angela Merkel, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Christine Lagarde and Ursula von der Leyen. If women are now occupying such top positions, so one could think that the situation regarding equality can’t be all that bad. Right? The euphoria was also triggered by the iconic image of four party leaders from Finland: all cool, young and unconventional. It makes one wanting to emigrate immediately.

Just to be on the safe side: Of course it’s great that we have a female chancellor in Germany. That the European Central Bank and the EU Commission are headed by women. Who would deny that? As important as those role models are, as they seem to live up to the wonderful motto “If she can see it, she can be it”, those very positions are exactly the problem. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily show how things look like in the normal life of normal women in normal jobs. They say nothing about whether women are properly paid for their work. They don’t say anything about what happens outside the urban, progressive filter bubbles, where “Male Feminists” are celebrated as new heroes. It’s a parallel world.

“True equality is only achieved when women are no longer disadvantaged at all levels and in all circumstances”

A few months ago, the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” researched and relentlessly documented what women still have to put up with in their professional lives. In the 21st century. In Germany. There, verbal derailments like “part-time mummy” were still comparatively harmless. The dossier of horror ranged to the worst sexism and criminal sexual harassment.

But even beyond the corporate world, in the supposedly modern start-up scene, things are not looking much better. VC capital mainly flows to male start-up teams. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that an all-female start-up team has an 18 percent lower chance of getting investor money; in the search for a main investor it is even 25 percent.

No, we’re not finished. We have to keep at it. True equality is only achieved when women are no longer disadvantaged at all levels and in all circumstances. When, and this is the crucial point, childcare is divided fairly between fathers and mothers and women no longer make one-sided sacrifices in terms of careers and pensions.

And this is where Finland comes in again. The Nordics tackled these issues earlier and more consistently. Even there, not everything is perfect yet. But the “Decade of Women” has actually begun there.

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