Monday, 7 March 2011

Women's Day 2011: Interview with Anke Trischler

To mark Women's Day 2011, humanrightseurope talked to Anke Trischler, a German banker turned business adviser.

Ms Trischler was a guest on the Council of Europe talkshow 'Viewpoint' which celebrated women's progress. One year on, she gives her views on how women can close the gender gap.

1.    A year on from the Viewpoint programme, do you believe that women in Germany are closer to reducing the gender gap?

No. Even though we have a female chancellor – maybe even because we have a female chancellor – we are still far away from closing the gap.

Some bigger companies want a quota but it seems more like a vanity thing or the idea of political correctness to me.

Mrs Merkel explicitly does not support a quota for women. It certainly is not a recipe but it could give the impulse to delivering diversity in teams and leadership.

2.    What are the main obstacles which block the movement of German society towards greater fairness in the distribution of power, responsibility and opportunity?

The main obstacles are
-    a different awareness of what success means: female attributes of success (variable working hours, sense in what they are doing, challenges) differ very much from male attributes (company car, bonus, staff, i.pad, titles). Women themselves tend not to long for the same male attributes of success;
-    women who give up fighting a useless and senseless fight within stupid hierarchies;
-    women who do not want to take on responsibility ;
-    conservative teachers at universities,
-    conservative families and their expectations;
-    conservative government paying mothers to stay at home;
-    very few and inflexible childcare programmes;
-    Many women in responsible jobs copy male behavior and become bad examples for younger women;
-    The fact that men and women hardly mix in business networks.

3.    During the Viewpoint programme, you quoted research which cited women as the “agents of change.” Is this still your view?

Yes, this is still my view. Women have a broader view on certain subjects and consider the consequences, the relationship between tasks and people. They long more often for sustainability as they do have to think further ahead. They go for more than just the quick win.

4.    Is feminism still a relevant force for you and the women that you know?

I don’t think so. Feminism sounds quite old-fashioned. We rather need to go for power, responsibility, teamwork, professional partnerships. We should work out new opportunities, like setting up our own companies. The discussion should be more businesslike - less about where someone comes from and one’s gender etc.

5.    Why do you believe that the German birth rate is among the lowest in Europe?

There are several reasons - Bad childcare, no support from government, conservatism in society to name but three.

Baby boomers  who were born in the 1960s, had nearly unlimited access to academic education and the early chance to live their self-destined lives. They often decided to lead a different life to their parents and decided not to have as many children, if at all.

6.    Child-rearing is a personal choice. Should it be actively encouraged by the state?

Yes, it should be encouraged but not the German way. Here, we pay mothers for staying at home rather than encouraging them to support children by becoming self-confident and remaining active in the workplace.

7.    How easy is it in Germany for working women to combine their professional lives with bringing up children?

I do not have children and so cannot answer this question from my own experience. I do know from some other women – self-employed and in responsible jobs – that it is nearly impossible to combine working and bringing up children.

One woman in a very good position with a high income has to spend nearly all her pay on a baby sitter. Another has to organise herself around the official childcare timetable which is not always compatible with professional responsibilities.

Why have children and then try to organize them away or out of the way? These women are always made to feel guilty, being a bad mother etc.

Employers also consider it risky giving a woman a responsible job if she is younger than 45 years of age because she could still become pregnant and being protected by law, face no risk of losing the job. However, from 45 onwards, women are often considered too old for the job.

8.    The Council of Europe is bringing forward a treaty to fight violence against women. What is your impression of the way this issue is treated in Germany?

I cannot remember hearing or reading much about it in Germany. Violence against women seems to be a hidden topic in Germany. It happens behind the curtains. I know of smaller, regional campaigns: Stickers/posters with “Don’t close your eyes. You then protect the committer.” on it.

9.    Women’s Day is a tribute to female achievement and the desire for progress. How can a human rights organisation such as the Council of Europe help German women in their efforts to achieve gender parity?

A good way would be to advance common legislation across the Council of Europe member states with a short time frame. A plan to increase the number of women on boards of directors, like in Norway, would be a good start.

10.    Women are overtaking men academically. They are entering the professions in ever greater numbers.  Is the celebration of Women’s Day still relevant at a time of ever more impressive statistics on female empowerment?

Female empowerment does not mean equality in responsibility, pay etc. Unfortunately, often less qualified males are favored by the people in charge – sometimes because of a better network and recommendation.

A study by IBM showed that qualifications count for about 10 per cent. Image comes up to 30 per cent and level of awareness up to 60 per cent.

Women need more professional marketing for themselves. They often come along too shy, small, invisible, less aiming for “male” success. They hardly talk about their achievements. Rather, they work silently and go for good results.

Therefore, Women’s Day should change the old image of “yes, you are great and we are proud of you” to one focussing on key questions: “Where do you want to be in 10/20/50 years of time? In which direction do we want to see our society go and how do we want to change the society in the next decades?”

Women's Day should become a “Development/Innovation/Future Day”

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