Consider women in the US minority

Women in Germany

Prof. Heather Hofmeister and Lena Hünefeld

Prof. Heather Hofmeister and Lena Hünefeld

To person

Prof. Heather Hofmeister, Ph.D., American doctorate in sociology at Cornell University (USA) 2002. From 2002 to 2007 research assistant at the University of Bamberg, since 2007 professor at RWTH Aachen University, since 2008 prorector for human resources and science Young generation, RWTH Aachen University.

Lena Hünefeld, M.A. Studied sociology, German philology and psychology at RWTH Aachen University until 2009. Since April 2009 research assistant at RWTH Aachen University. Since August 2009 doctorate in the research project "Gender in Leadership" at RWTH Aachen University.

Not only are women legally equal with men, they also have, on average, the same or higher educational qualifications, qualifications and leadership skills. In the executive suite, however, they are severely underrepresented compared to their male colleagues. What is stopping you from climbing?

Women are still less represented in management positions, although they are no longer lagging behind men in terms of training. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)
Although women make up 51 percent of the German population, 44 percent of German workers are female (Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE, 2009) and the desire of women to participate in working life in recent years has risen continuously, women are currently underrepresented in management positions. In 2008, more than 70 percent of all women were gainfully employed or looking for a job. The so-called female employment rate is therefore no longer far removed from the relatively constant employment rate for men at 81 percent this year (Institute for Occupational Research, IAB, Research Report 2009).


Nevertheless, women are only represented in 25 percent of the cases at the first management level, which includes the board of directors, the management and the main department, and 35 percent at the second management level, which denotes all departments subordinate to the main department. If you look at the proportion of female managers in all working women, the difference between men and women in management positions becomes particularly clear: 10 percent of all employed men are managers and only 4 percent of all employed women. Thus, every tenth working man occupies a management position, while only every 25 working woman is active in the management level (IAB research report 2009). In the Dax30 companies there are a total of four women on the executive boards: Brigitte Ederer and Barbara Kux at Siemens, Dr. Angelika Dammann at SAP and Regine Stachelhaus at E.ON (DIW weekly report No. 3/2011)

In addition, the number of women in management positions varies depending on the industry. Women can be found in many management levels in health and social services and in the private service sector (almost 40 percent of women), while only a few, 8-18 percent, hold a management position in the banking and insurance sector (Balance Sheet Equal Opportunities 2006, PDF). A central question that arises in view of the numbers is why women are less represented in management positions.

Same qualifications - unequal opportunities

One reason that can largely be ruled out is that women are less qualified than their male counterparts. While the proportion of women among those who leave school with a general university entrance qualification is 56 percent higher than that of men, it is significantly lower at 38.6 percent among those who leave school without a qualification (Federal Statistical Office 2008 ). Furthermore, with 52.9 percent, women also overtook men in terms of university degrees (Federal Statistical Office 2008). According to statistics from Eurostat, men made up only 46.2 percent in 2008. This means that women no longer lag behind men in terms of training. In addition, there are a number of factors that influence the rise of women in management positions.

To explain the shortage of women in management positions, one must first bear in mind that for a long time the labor market and management levels were shaped only by men. This has resulted in the development of an idea of ​​a successful career based on the experience of a man with a continuous job. Farther Managers are associated with typical "male" characteristics such as dominance, self-confidence, autonomy, etc. As a result, leadership positions and leadership behavior are more likely to be associated with men than with women.

Most male employers often attribute a lack of self-confidence, poor self-presentation and a lack of assertiveness to women and consider them unsuitable for a management position - regardless of whether this is based on reality or not. In view of the research to date, however, it is doubtful that men have better qualities than women, either by nature or through gender-specific socialization, than women (Appelbaum / Audet / Miller 2003). Current research suggests that leadership qualities are not a question of gender, but of personality, and that men and women are equally suitable for a leadership position. Studies such as the GiL research project of the sociological institute of RWTH Aachen University have made it their task to further examine the relationship between gender and leadership.

Infographic: income groups

Another explanation for the shortage of women in leadership is that Division of labor in household and family, especially the time-consuming ascribed mother role. According to traditional role expectations and assignments, women in our society are still primarily responsible for caring for children, which almost excludes other tasks outside the household due to a lack of small childcare. There is also the image in German culture that men who have no time for their children in addition to their job, fulfill their father role by earning a good salary. Working women, on the other hand, are considered "bad mothers" if they are not busy with their children full-time. Thus, the traditional division of roles means that working men can pursue a career despite or perhaps because of the family, because their wives relieve them of the family. In contrast, working women often have to bear the double burden of family and work, as they rarely get the same support from their husbands. In addition, the compatibility of children, especially for women in management positions, is reinforced by the lack of part-time models for managers and / or less flexible and longer opening hours of day-care centers.

The "glass ceiling"

It is particularly noticeable that highly qualified women "get stuck" at the level of middle management when advancing within a company or organization and do not reach the management level even though they perform similarly to their preferred male colleagues. In addition, women find it difficult to take up a management position, especially in large companies, because there only five percent (Balance sheet 2006, PDF) of management positions are held by women.

Ann Morrison and her colleagues summarized these phenomena in 1987 under the term "glass ceiling" (Morrison et al. 1987). You mean all invisible processes and factors that effectively prevent women from accessing management positions. These processes include the aspects already mentioned, but above all those Men's culture in companies. It often happens that men are promoted by their male superiors, while women are denied career opportunities. The preference for male employees thus also leads to male status security, security of the male core workforce and a manifestation of the current situation at management levels. In addition, women are a minority in management positions and are perceived as such. As a result, they are more often perceived as a member of a gender stereotype group than an individual with adequate qualifications. Similarly, women are largely excluded from important professional networks, while men use them for their advancement (joint leisure activities, pub visits after work or weekend invitations).

To make matters worse, the Ascent mostly in the executive floors of companies between the ages of 30 and 35 takes place. However, this is precisely the period in which women are only able to participate in working life to a limited extent due to childbirth and are therefore often ignored when filling good positions.

The fact that the size of the company has an influence on the opportunities for advancement of women is due to the strong hierarchical and particularly male-dominated structure of large companies. The factors mentioned so far act in this sense especially in large companies. In addition, women are more likely to find management positions in small and medium-sized companies because women returning to work after their family phase are not automatically discriminated there because of their career interruptions and their older age. Systematic career planning in large companies seldom leaves enough room for career breaks. Furthermore, highly formalized recruitment procedures, as they are often used in large companies, often lead to a disadvantage for women. They are often based on a male full-time employment model and evaluate career breaks, e.g. as a loss of qualifications. Smaller companies are also usually more family-friendly. Here women are often active as the owner, co-owner or wife of the owner in the highest management level. Because of the proximity of work and family, management activities are more often compatible with motherhood, which is usually a problem in large companies (Dienel 1996).

Income Groups *

Distribution in percent, according to the highest professional qualification of the 27 to 59 year old full-time employees, 2008
 < 900="">900 to
< 2.600="">
≥ 2,600 euros
a total of
Men3,973,722,4
Women10,580,78,7
Technical / university degree **
Men2,044,353,7
Women4,069,426,6
Master / technician training
Men2,267,929,9
Women6,787,26,2
Apprenticeship training
Men3,884,511,7
Women11,684,83,6
without a professional qualification
Men11,481,27,4
Women23,374,52,3

* based on monthly net income
** including doctorate

Source: Federal Statistical Office
License: Creative Commons by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de
Federal Agency for Civic Education, 2010