Gender-Coding Professions In Germany


IAWM list

October 15, 2005


Shelley Olson asked if and how German women achieved more equality in sports.  Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about that subject.  I do know that there are three notable areas where German women have long excelled: politics, medicine, and law.  They were very present in these professions long before women in the US made similar gains.


The Socialists (the mainstream left party in Germany ) and the Greens strongly encourage women to participate in their parties.  The Greens even mandate that 50% of their party representatives be women.  This supportive climate for women in politics is why Germany will soon have a woman Chancellor, Angela Merkel.  She is the head of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party, but a woman Chancellor is a woman Chancellor.


Every culture seems to have its own approach for gender coding professions.  Women in medicine and law have long been accepted in Germany .  I have an interesting book about women in the Third Reich.  Even then women were encouraged in these professions -- though the Nazi rationale seems almost ludicrous.  Men were categorized as "warriors," while women were seen as healers (for warriors) and as mediators (between warriors.)  Professional women were treated very badly in most other ways during that period.


There are some limitations.  I think that close to half the doctors in Germany are women, but very few are in leading positions in large hospitals.  Even though the country will have a woman Chancellor, women leaders are often rejected in many areas of life.  Women comprise only about 1% of the CEOs and corporate boards in Germany -- as in most of continental Europe .


Women are just now reaching the 10% level as professors in Germany 's universities.


The old East Germany had a very aggressive women's politic.  In the mid 1980s, women comprised 50% of the East German workforce, but only 16% of the personnel in its orchestras -- exactly the same percentage as in highly conservative Austria .  For some reason, music has always had a very specific and strong macsuline gender coding in the Geman-speaking world. 


William Osborne