Eigentlich ist das mit den Geschlechterverhältnissen hier in Deutschland doch schon ganz ordentlich, oder? Also so im Vergleich zu anderen Ländern. Tja, denkste – der Blick von außen ist dann doch erhellend. Deswegen folgt hier ein (anonymisierter) Rant einer Bekannten von mir, die seit vielen Jahren in den USA lebt, dort eine erfolgreiche Professorin ist, und jetzt für ein Jahr wieder nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt ist. Ihre Erfahrungen damit, wie tief eingegraben überkommene Geschlechterrollen hierzulande sind – selbst oder gerade in einem akademischen Kontext:
Before I moved back to Germany I did not consider myself a feminist, just a woman, who expects to be treated equally. That’s all. After a year back in Germany I feel like a radical feminist activist.
The main reason I could not see myself living in Germany again permanently is because of gender roles. Overall I see men here a lot more equally involved in household chores, the care of the children, it is not uncommon for men to take paternity leave; yet even many of those men still boss their female partners around telling them how to do what when or ordering for them in the restaurant. I conducted interviews here with Germans about their identity, in an attempt to understand, how people in Germany define Germanness and themselves as Germans. One man (married to an accomplished female doctor) responded to the question “wer sind Sie und wie würden Sie sich beschreiben” with the following “Ich bin Chef. Ich bin der Chef bei der Arbeit. Chef meines Hauses und Chef meiner Familie.” And that is the attitude I saw in many places.
A surprising number of well-educated (Ph.D., MD, etc.) women gave up their careers and stay at home without ever reentering their profession and many other women opted not to have children because they believe motherhood and careerhood are incompatible. Those women in my social circle, who believed that motherhood and a career should be possible, work and/or live in other countries. While boys and girls appear to be treated and raised similarly and you cannot tell the difference between the boys’ and the girls’ section in stores, somewhere along the lines something changes and it is especially pronounced in the work-place, an old boys club.
At the junior research award ceremony at the local university 44 of 56 awards went to men across disciplines. When I pointed that out to the male next to me at the awards luncheon he was really surprised and had not even noticed.
Most of the boards I had to deal with this year where exclusively or at least primarily made up of males. If there were women on the board, it was typically for “female” roles such as K‑12 education or art.
More than once when I was introduced as the director of the program, the men (and some women) responded with different versions of “I expected an older male.” Well, I am a younger woman, deal with it, jerk!
In a few situations the Prof. Dr. MaleImportance expected me to address him with full title and the formal address, while I was addressed with the informal as Frau Idontreallyneedtoknowyourname. I don’t really care about my degrees, but if you insist on yours, you have to give me the same respect.
The men I interacted with here in my function as the director of an American educational program appeared to fall into three categories: (1) those who could not accept a female director and never respected me as such, (2) those who just started hitting on me or any other female in the room, and (3) the few that acted like I was used to from the US (primarily men in German-American settings).
At a dinner with a German university president and a US university president the US president asked the German president, if he had any female deans, the president switched the topic. Later I checked online and saw that only one of the colleges had a female dean and there was only one woman in the central administration – yes, you guessed it, the woman in charge of affirmative action. In the US I have a female department chair, a female dean, a female provost, and a female university president.
When our office moved location, the movers did not allow me to lift anything or touch tools because I am a woman. My male co-director was allowed to do so – of course. Both janitors at the apartment complex always felt the need to check up on me, make sure that I am okay, even letting themselves into my apartment to check on things (they do have permission) or rearranging things in my garage. I am confident they won’t do that to my male colleague, who is taking over my position next year.
One of my students completed an internship and in her building all the women were on the ground level (even the ones with completed doctorate degrees) and all the men on the second floor (even those without Ph.D.s) and several of the woman had to share offices, while none of the men had to do so. At an event during her internship all of the women had to set up the catered meal for the membership assembly while all the males listened to the signature lecture – again this was regardless of degree, title or position. She even had pictures in her final video about her internship that demonstrated this discrepancy though she very diplomatically did not comment on the pictures.
Several of my students reported that they had female instructors who allowed the du and the first name, while all of their male professors expected full title and Sie and some of them even addressed the students by first name but expected last name and title in return.
I supervised two female instructors and two male instructors. In over a decade of coordination or program administration I have never had the impression that I work more effectively with one gender over the other, but here I really struggled with the male instructors, while the female instructors were great.
Both female instructors stopped by this week to thank me for all the help and support and we had great conversations and a productive relationship throughout the year. The male instructor 1 from the one semester never even said hi to me, when he came to the office, even when he knew I was here. Even if he had to turn something in to me and knew I was here, he just gave it to my co-director (who technically is the Associate Director and I am the boss, but I changed the name, because I wanted an equal partnership). Of course he never answered my emails either. When the other male instructor 2 wanted a raise, he did not negotiate with me, the actual supervisor, but with my co-director, who does not have decision power. At the end of the other semester we had a big wave of severe sickness, which caused even very responsible students to have an unfinished paper by the deadline. They asked for an extension and the male instructor 2 did not really give an answer, so I talked with him and he gave me tons of attitude, because it is his course and he gets to decide and they should have known better. Of course some of that is true, but he is also employed by me and I see that my students are about to fail several of their courses because of severe illnesses across the program and the only courses I can somewhat have an influence on are the two taught by our staff, so of course I will try to work with him (and the female instructor, who readily agreed to make modifications). I was asking for two extra days, still a deadline before the official end of the semester, i.e. still within his employment period. After much discussion he finally agreed that he would let them turn it in late though he did not disclose whether that would result in deduction of points though he admitted that his syllabus said nothing about late assignments. He only agreed to the extension, if I collected all the papers, printed them, and personally delivered them to his office. Anything for you, arrogant ass! By the way all the instructors were younger than me with fewer degrees and I was the boss, which did not stop the male instructors from being jerks and only reporting to the co-director, who was a male with fewer degrees and lower rank than me.
And so this year I endured treatment from male jerks in the work-place, which I would never accept or tolerate in the US, but since I am only here for a year, I played along and accepted it as cultural differences so that the relations between the entities or individuals and our program could stay positive for cohorts to come.
Many of the stereotypes that many of my American friends have about men, do not hold true in Germany, which is why I believe that male/female behavior has more to do with cultural values and expectations of gender than the gender itself. While I notice a lot of great things about German men (they change diapers, see and clean up dirt and can perfectly well multi-task), I do not fit into the role system here. Several of the private sector leaders (all male, of course) I interacted with, seemed to at least be interested in discussing ideas for changing this gender inequality (none of the academic leaders even acknowledged it as a problem). But I really do not have an answer, because I believe this gender inequality is so ingrained in the cultural values that no Quotenregelung or anything will change it. If it ever changes, it will be a long process and I am not hopeful that things will change before I reach retirement age in 27 years.
A big kudos to the men in my German life, who have shown me that general trends do not apply to everyone (first and foremost of course my stay-at-home dad but also especially my co-director who was a true collaborative partner in directing this program).
I look forward to returning to a work environment, where I am treated comparatively equally and am respected by my male colleagues, my male supervisors, and the males I supervise as much or as little as by their female counterparts. If it weren’t for the gender issues in the work-place I would consider returning to Germany, but this is why I left in 1997 and why I will leave again. Viel Erfolg, Deutschland.