Gender Equality expert talk – What is state of gender equality?
CM: Dear Mrs. Weiler, What is the overall state of gender equality globally, in Europe and in Germany?
Gender equality has been a big topic for decades, and there has been significant movement across the globe, particularly in western societies. However, gender inequality and gender pay gap is unfortunately still a reality in most professional environments. Especially for women who decide to have a family have a harder time pursuing their professional goals and maintaining a career they worked so hard for. Having had leadership positions in the US while raising a family, I know from first-hand experience how difficult it can be based on biases and a lack of infrastructure in certain countries.
CM: Please, tell us something about some major reasons why – let’s pick the power of coterie versus simply networking as an example.
Women are known in many societies as the social gender, and many of them are extremely well connected in the societies they live in. Or in other words, they tend to network on a more social level. In my experience, many professional women are good networkers, but the impact and the result s are not what they hoped for especially when looking for a new professional opportunity or more business. Oftentimes emotions such as jealousy, envy or judgement among women, particularly in the professional sphere often prohibits other women to advance. Their male counterparts on the other hand are far less interested in simply networking, but seem to focus on coteries, which support advancement of one another.
„Their male counterparts on the other hand are far less interested in simply networking, but seem to focus on coteries, which support advancement of one another.“
CM: Which role does Geert Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of national culture (still) play in this context?
I believe the national culture is very relevant in the context of gender equality. For example, I’ve lived and worked more than 15 years in the United States and have just recently moved back to Germany for some time. I see a big difference in the role of the women and the expectations towards working mothers. Each gender has certain roles, which is reflected in the masculinity versus femininity of Hofstede’s model. In the US for instance, it was not questioned that I went back to my leadership role after 8 weeks with my newborn baby, and the culture as well as the infrastructure supports such a decision. In Germany it is a rare exception, and in my experience, companies are hesitant to place mothers in leadership roles because of the assumption that the mother will take on the lion share of the domestic responsibilities.
(More about Hofstede’s cultural dimensions: LINK)
CM: Why is it still a problem to effectively organize family and career to meet all needs, including your own?
Part of the reason in my opinion are the factors I described above. The infrastructure in certain countries are not built to support the effective combination of family and career. Furthermore I’ve found that especially women tend to have higher standards as to what they should do domestically and forget about their own needs and limitations in the process. In previous generations where the roles were clearly defined, the women’s roles were largely domestic. However nowadays, women take care of the majority of the domestic tasks while going back to work. This can have significant implications such as burnout and anxiety. In my experience, the family dynamic and the wellbeing of everyone in the family is much improved if the mother is balanced and the share of the work is equally distributed.
CM: How does the mindset influence what’s possible?
I believe the mindset is where all good or bad starts. And what I mean by that is if I believe that something is possible or I believe something is not possible, both will be true, because my thoughts and beliefs shape my reality. Therefore, I work with my clients on their mindset before we even look at the quantitative factors of their business or how we can improve their branding.
„In my experience, failure is very differently perceived in different countries and societies. What I found is that in the US for example failure is necessary to achieve greatness.“
CM: Is failure shameful, or is it a necessary experience to reach greatness? How do men and women assess this point?
In my experience, failure is very differently perceived in different countries and societies. What I found is that in the US for example failure is necessary to achieve greatness. People are not afraid to fail, even a few times, and as a result some of the best inventions stem from such a culture. In Germany in comparison, my experience has been that failure seems to be shameful, and has to be avoided at all cost. As a result, we don’t have a culture of entrepreneurship, and taking risks happen at a much smaller level.
CM: Your short-term advice: How to get out the most of the given social and societal infrastructure?
My advice would be to just try, and don’t give up. When others say it is not possible to do things, for example find care for multiple children or to have a career and family, still try and get creative with finding solutions. Oftentimes, questioning a status quo and being persistent instead of resigning to a certain belief leads to success.
CM: With its Gender Inequality Index (GII) the UNITED NATIONS states that gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development. What should be done to improve the current situation long-term?
Provide the infrastructure to allow career women to have a choice. They should be able to go back to their career after 8 weeks, or whenever they choose, without having to compromise on the care of their children. Furthermore, the government should support education that increases awareness among women what it means for their financial future, especially for retirement, if they work part-time for many years. Women are at risk of falling into poverty when they retire due to the lack of financial independence.
Cultural shifts and beliefs are hard to change and a long-term endeavor. However, I believe companies should Invest in awareness programs to show that mixed teams can be beneficial for companies. Furthermore, putting in place forward-thinking leadership is crucial since the change starts on top in many cases.
Speak up, surround yourself with likeminded women and men, get involved in organizations that support the cause and build coteries among women, and most importantly don’t be afraid to be different.
(Learn more about the GII: LINK)