Why do so few women have a career? Because in companies there are “men’s clubs” and the young women have too many doubts about themselves. Not just anybody, but Federal Minister of the Family Franziska Giffey.
Chillreport: Ms. Giffey, is it harder for women than men to make a career?
Franziska Giffey: When you look at the number of women in management positions, it is definitely more difficult for women. Less talent and aptitude cannot be explained by the fact that we have fewer women than men in the boardrooms of large companies – but also in politics, for example.
If it is as difficult for women as you say, shouldn’t a man be leading the family service?
Counter Question: Should the Ministers of the Interior, Economy and Transport or the heads of the Chancellery always be men?
Of course not. But these are all portfolios taken by the Union. Start with your party and suggest Treasury Secretary Olaf Scholz change departments.
He is doing very well as Secretary of the Treasury and Vice Chancellor. There is no need to change anything during the parliamentary term.
More courage, Mrs. Giffey!
I certainly do, but I am also a realist. One idea for the next government would be to have at least one other woman in a department previously usually run by men.
And vice versa?
Yes of course. What should always count is qualification, i.e. aptitude, performance and ability. That’s where it’s about me – with women and men.
What makes it so difficult for qualified women to pursue a career?
It is mainly due to the preconditions for a good work-life balance. But of course it also depends on the will of the women. They still too often miss the following. Men are more likely to rely on networks and relationships. This is also important for women. Women who are already in leadership positions can encourage others to be more confident.
And is that because there are too few women in management positions?
A study by the Allbright Foundation found that until recently there were more men with the first names Thomas and Michael than women in the executive floors of the economy. Now you have to count Stefan too. But you have to imagine that: three male names are more common than all female names combined. The point is, Thomas is promoting Thomas, Michael is promoting Michael. People of the same kind stick together. Men’s clubs are established.
How do we get Michaela to support and Stefan to support Stefanie?
I’m just afraid of more pressure.
Why are you so pessimistic?
Because we’ve been trying other ways for so long. We will not get any further with non-binding advice. We see at the supervisory boards that it only worked because there were clear guidelines. The law has been in force since 2015, requiring more than 100 listed companies to fill 30 percent of the positions on the supervisory board with women. We’re now at over 35 percent – so it worked. That is why we want to expand the number of companies to which this applies. And if you look at the board members of large German companies, less than eight percent are women. And many companies – 78 percent of them – simply called the “target zero” or gave themselves no target at all. This means that they also want administrative areas without women in the future. It doesn’t work like that.
Sounds a bit like: no one intends to promote women.
I find that scary. It is 2020 and not 1920. That means that hardly anything changes by itself. “It would be nice” is no longer enough. It doesn’t work without pressure, without a set goal, without sanctions. If we don’t accelerate, it will take decades to achieve equality.
You presented your bill with precise provisions in the spring. Not much has happened so far. Is that because of the current mood to avoid anything that, besides the worst recession in the history of the Federal Republic, could put the economy in trouble?
Getting women in leadership is not a problem. When you consider that mixed teams are proven to be more successful, we are talking about a necessary modernization momentum, about real economic development – especially in times of crisis. But I know these defense arguments well enough.
But what do you say to an entrepreneur who says: “In principle you are right. But I will be happy if my company still exists next year. The question of how many women there are on the board is of secondary importance to me at the moment.”
My answer is very simple: “We don’t want you kicking out a board member who is currently doing crisis management. We just want you to find a wife for the next appointment.” My concern is that in the future there should be at least one woman on boards with more than four members. This is not revolutionary, but it was overdue.
However, many see it differently with your coalition partner CDU / CSU. What’s next with your account?
We must reach an agreement in the coalition in September and the draft must be in cabinet by December at the latest so that the Bundestag can pass the law during this election period.
The Chancellor was able to pronounce a word of power. After all, she is showered with praise from all men in the Union. Why doesn’t she?
Angela Merkel has already spoken out for more women in management positions and clear guidelines – including in the Bundestag. I hope she will exert influence within her own ranks.
Franziska Giffey: The Family Minister could soon be Mayor of Berlin (Source: Arno Wölk / Chillreport)
You like to give your laws beautiful names, such as the “Good Childcare Act”. Shouldn’t you call your project the “Franziska Giffey gives wings to women” law?
We don’t want to overdo it. I want people to understand what is behind a law. And I think that’s clear with the law on my leadership positions.
But that can mean anything. Shouldn’t it at least be called the “More Women in Management” law?
No, it is about equal participation of men and women.
So “fewer men in management” law?
No, the focus is on balance. For example, in family service, we make sure we have enough men in leadership positions.
So is it a “leadership for all” law?
Everyone is bullshit too.
For all qualified?
You shouldn’t alienate it either.
Okay, we’re giving up. But we still don’t know for sure whether a law – whatever it is called – can really change thinking.
Not just a law. But it can influence and enforce an attitude in society. For example in the field of partnership and compatibility. Being professionally successful doesn’t mean you don’t have a family. The point is, no one has to choose between a career and a family.
Isn’t that true for mothers and fathers?
Naturally. The fathers have made great progress. In the past, shortly before parental benefits and parental leave were introduced in 2007, only 3 percent stayed at home when children were born. It is now over 40 percent. Still less than mothers, but still.
In everyday working life, we repeatedly see that women are offered attractive jobs, but they hesitate. On the other hand, if men get the chance, they usually take it.
Confidence in yourself is also a crucial factor. “Can I even do that? Am I good enough for the job?” Women ask that, men don’t. They say, “Cool job, I’ll do it.”
Do you have the impression that the distribution of posts in the cabinet was comparable?
I do not know that. In principle, men question themselves less critically than women. But for me it’s about encouraging women: don’t hesitate so much, just do it and show you can do it.
How are you going to make that possible?
By creating good preconditions for this – for example with the expansion of daycare centers and all-day care in primary schools. The federal government supports the federal states in their task of providing parents and children with sufficient capacities and quality. Because good childcare is the key to a better work-life balance.
Women who qualify for board positions are unlikely to have problems with childcare.
Probably not. They pay for it privately and only complain that they cannot deduct the expense from the tax sufficiently.
So is it a reason to switch post with Scholz?
Then I would rather abolish the divorce from the husband.
Is that the career killer for women?
In any case, we have a tax system that provides incentives to the single-earner family on a large scale. Or even preferred women doing part-time jobs. You can’t accuse a family of calculating what’s most important. If we had individual taxes, as in Sweden, this gap would be smaller.
Do you see an opportunity to get rid of splitting from your partner?
That is completely hopeless for our coalition partner in this election period. The issue must be addressed after the next federal election. And I think it must be a major campaign issue for the SPD.
How do you feel about the charge that you wanted to dictate how people should live by abolishing the divorce between spouses and the massive expansion of childcare?
Each family must decide individually and for itself how to organize its family life. If you want to stay at home for several years to raise the children, that is of course possible. But the question is to what extent the state supports this financially. And here our position is very clear: we invest money in family benefits that allow mothers and fathers to balance work and family alike. That is why we also massively promote the expansion of childcare in day care centers and primary schools.
If we look back to 2020 in a few years, will we speak of a lost generation? After all, schools and day care centers have been closed for months and the digitization of the education system is progressing slowly – as the OECD recently complained.
I am against such a dramatization. Digitization is important, but is asked differently: how did we all graduate from school without laptops, smartphones, e-mails or video switching? We also made it through school successfully.
But we hadn’t been home for months – often without proper lessons.
It has been difficult months, of course. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on the younger generation. Undoubtedly, it was a great burden for almost all families, but manageable for many as well. It was extremely difficult, especially for those who were struggling before the Corona crisis. So for children who receive little support at home, do not have a quiet place to study or who live in tight or socially problematic circumstances.
But then these children are in danger of becoming a lost generation.
You can catch up if you make good offers now. We can make up for this time. That is why our main goal is to do everything we can so that schools and nurseries do not have to close again.
That may be all. But despite the digitization of schools and the expansion of daycare, many women who have not fully regulated working hours remain torn. For example, when the kids say on a Saturday morning, “Mom, I’m so glad to see you two days in a row.”
I can understand that very well. There are always days when you wonder: why am I doing all this? And if the child is still at home and wants to know: “When will you finally come?”, That is difficult. These emotional moments often influence how women make career choices. In men it is often a bit different. What is important to me is: how is everyone doing well? And how is everyone doing better?
But these are very big questions now.
I’ll try a little smaller: wouldn’t everyone be better off working a little less and having more time for family? Can’t we end the sessions earlier so that everyone can at least say goodnight to their children?
But when it comes to this topic, the parties are anything but exemplary. Or does the Berlin SPD not meet in the evening at 7 pm?
Yes of course. But you can say: we do two hours, it ends at 9 p.m. Corona could be an opportunity here, as virtual party gatherings are also possible. It has to go in this direction. It is no coincidence that less than ten percent of mayors in Germany are women.
Speaking of mayor: the SPD of Berlin wants to increase the women’s quota.
We have heard such a thing. If we want to meet you again in a year, should we come to the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs or the Red Town Hall, where the reigning Mayor Franziska Giffey is sitting?
We don’t believe you. You’re more determined than “let’s see”.
I already have an idea of what the future might look like. But I take it step by step. And I said I was applying for the Berlin SPD’s state chairmanship. Also because I am convinced that it is good for the city if it continues to be governed socially and democratically.
That doesn’t surprise us.
The SPD in Berlin is not that easy at the moment. I think we need one more boost for the party. And I want to contribute something to that.
Mrs. Giffey, thank you for talking to us