East German women demonstrate how…feel free to follow

Today I found this interesting study called “Neue Frauen machen Neue Länder”, by the BMFSFJ (ministry for family, seniors, juveniles and women), about women’s careers and the arrangement of family and profession, comparing women  from the eastern and western part of Germany. In the study it is stated that young women from the eastern part of Germany don’t want to make compromises when it comes to career and family (and they usually don’t) and that there are more women in leading positions in the eastern part of Germany.

children and career

But why is that? How can there be more women in leading positions in the eastern part of Germany?
Well, I think, two big factors are the different socialization and the different role models eastern German girls had / have. Growing up in the former GDR, it was normal that both parents work, usually full-time. So growing up with a working mother, it’s totally natural for “Girls from the East” to want both, a family and a career. Another reasons surely is that the child care situation in the eastern part of Germany is still much better than in the western part (even with the close-down of many Kindergartens after the wall came down).

business woman

But there is another question arising: Is a leading position in the eastern part of Germany the same as one in the western part? Are they comparable?
They first possible reasons for differentiation coming to my mind is the different structure of companies in Germany. Most of the DAX-Companies are located in the South and West of Germany. What is left for the East? Small- and medium-sized companies (SME). Here, I think, career opportunities are limited or the career latter ends sooner, since often the owners of SME are simultaneously the Top-Manager. In big companies, such as the DAX-Companies, there are more possibilities and higher positions available. My second thought was that it easier for women in the eastern part of Germany to find jobs because of the lack of qualified employees and graduates, caused by the emigration of qualified (East German) people, especially women, to the western part of Germany.

I, as a girl born in the former GDR, find it great that women from the eastern part of Germany are seen as role models in this study. But I don’t know, if a leading position in a DAX-Company is comparable to one in a SME…and even if it is, if it makes sense to compare them. What do you think?

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Comments
5 Responses to “East German women demonstrate how…feel free to follow”
  1. martinjaja says:

    Dear Katrin, that is a superb post. Great topic and writing style. I did not know about that issue till today. Interestingly, when I think about the women I met during my work placements in Switzerland, Dubai and even Beijing, most of them were from the former GDR. They often came from small cities and tried to get a job anywhere in Germany. In the end, they decided to move abroad. After a while, most of them took over managing positions in their companies. It seems to me that women from the the GDR are more career focused than others and are willing to sacrifice more in order to achieve their personal and career goals.

  2. Mary says:

    Great thoughts. I agree that, as most DAX companies are located in the southern and western part of Germany, you might not compare careers that eastern women have with those of western women. But then again the question is: Do we always have to define ‘career’ as having a job in top management in a DAX company? I don’t think that you are working less in a leading position in an SME, you may even have more responsibility as your actions will directly affect your employees – the only thing that might be missing is prestige.

    Unfortunately, I could only find sources that are comparing ‘child-friendliness’ in very big companies, maybe someone has an idea where to find any data for SMEs?

  3. thob84 says:

    Thank you Katrin! I also want to emphasize the fact of women in east germany to be a role model for the rest of society. Today we talk about Mrs. Van der Leyen but who names the female leaders of the small and medium sized companies in east germany? I personally think that it does not make a huge difference if you run a DAX company or a SME. In both cases you need to understand the fundamentals of running a business. How often do we see that beginner mistakes are made in top management companies (Arcandor, Quelle, etc.)!? Of course the difference is the size of the impact this creates.

  4. katjo2010 says:

    Thank you for all your comments!
    @ martinjaja: I made the same experience and count myself to those women 😉 But I’m not sure about what the reasons for this spirit might be and if maybe we just met women from the former GDR who are like this but it might also apply to many other women from everywhere in Germay.
    @Mary: I’m totally with you…career is not only a leading position in DAX companies. As you, I could not find sources for SMEs 😦
    @thob84: I would like to know who those women are as well and also what mistakes are made in SMEs. I agree that the impact of mistakes made in SMEs is not as big as in big companies…but I think even “small” companies can make mistakes that have a big influence for the people involved. But here examples are hard to find, unfortunately.

  5. Izzy says:

    A very interesting topic. Thank you for this idea, Katrin, it was very inspiring for me. I wanted to follow up on SME’s and focused my recent post on this issue and I also found a study about SME’s which might interest you, click hereif you want to know more. Cheers, izzy

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