The first-time right to vote for women in Germany exactly 100 years ago was a signal of departure. But equal rights do not mean equal opportunities. Women have to keep fighting, says Anja Brockmann.

Never before have women in Germany been as educated as they are today. In some school subjects girls have long since abandoned boys. Nevertheless, men often get the better jobs: in business, in politics. In the German Bundestag, the proportion of women is currently as low as it has been for 20 years. Equality “remains a permanent task,” says German Chancellor Angela Merkel – thus involuntarily exposing her own more than 13-year reign to mediocre witness.

Yes, Merkel’s first election as Chancellor in 2005 was an epochal turning point in Germany. Yes, in her direct environment, the Chancellor has promoted women, even made her the first Minister of Defense of the Republic. And no, no one has taken the butter of bread from them – no matter whether they are Gerhard Schröder, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump.

No power word from Angela Merkel

But the most powerful woman in the world has rarely spoken a word in women’s politics and for long, too long, has put herself on voluntary commitments instead of binding quotas – in the economy and in her own party. Women’s politics as a matter of the heart had never been Merkel’s cause, even though she has been followed by a woman as chairman of the CDU since December with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. And the decisive argument in the party-internal competition against the main competitor Friedrich Merz was that this enjoys too little sympathy especially with the voters.

Anja Brockmann (DW / B. Geilert)

But still – there is still a lot to do in Germany. The country needs a new tax system. One that does not reward when wives earn little or even stay home. Finally, wage inequality between men and women, which is higher in Germany than in any other country in Europe, needs to be eliminated. And there is an urgent need to introduce job-sharing models in top positions, nationwide all-day schools – the list is long.

Women have to get involved

For this to happen, it takes women who get involved in the politics, who participate, who are role models. This is exhausting and does not go in the existing structures without allies: men, as the husband of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. He has given up his job so that his wife could get on with her political career. Keep your eyes open when choosing a partner, but women still rarely take this advice.

More women than men stayed at home in the 2017 general election. Non-dialing is not an alternative! Voters need to be aware of their power and use it. You have to show the men’s leagues in politics the red card. They must use their voices to reward men and women who are not basta-politicians who want to take their problems seriously and resolve them.

Women’s policy is also a man’s business

And men must finally realize that women’s politics is their business too! That it is worthwhile for them to fight for it. For example, the labor market: Since 1 January, larger companies in Germany have had the legal capacity to work full time after a temporary part-time job. This also allows men more flexible working time models – a small revolution for many families.

For the political enterprise, this revolution began 100 years ago, with the active and passive women’s suffrage. Its message is as relevant today as it was then: A parliament in which women are underrepresented does not depict society – and thus loses its legitimacy in the long term. That hurts democracy. Especially in times when it is attacked by many.


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