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 created on: Friday, October 25th, 2013

Germany, global


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English, Arabic

I do not wish to mention my name, perhaps that says a lot, but a fake name seems silly, so I will remain completely anonymous. I am in my thirties and, since recently, I have held a leading position in a successful medium-sized company in germany.

I love my work, but I come accross inequality and misogyny every day. It is often subtle, but, if you think longer about it, it is all the more shocking. Here, I want to tell three of the hundreds of stories I have experienced in my rather conservative company.

– As I was about to be promoted, a storm of protest broke out among my colleagues, great efforts were made to prevent my promotion. A difficult situation for me, I was not aware any of dissatisfaction with my work or interpersonal problems. It was similarly complicated for my superiors with whom I have a close relationship of trust. We decided to follow up every single accusation. Only a fraction of my criticisers were ready to talk to me, three main reasons surfaced, which supposedly opposed my promotion:

“You appear too self-confident!”

“You are not spoken well of, you are not nice enough!”

Specifically, a much older female interlocutor told me: “I recently saw you on the company premises, you weren’t smiling, but you must always smile!”

In fact, it seemed that behind the concerns, expressed mostly by male executives, were hidden many disappointed expectations of female employees. I endured it, was promoted and I actually smile more. My team believes I emerged from this slightly traumatized. The further behind me it is, the more I can be myself again. Ever since I took the leading positiom, the reproaches have seemingly gone silent.

– When I accompany my (exclusively) male superiors on official appointments, it is expected that I “make myself pretty” and wear a dress, I always thought I could just be imagining it, until we went to meet a particularly difficult customer and the founder of the company said: “Perhaps you had better wear a skirt”. When a client groped me in his presence, and I was too shocked to defend myself, he did nothing. Afterwards he told me that he thought it was awful, but that the customer was weird anyway and that I should not take it seriously.

– As the only woman, I am the in the highest managerial position at the official meetings. Both there as well as in higher circles of politics and economy – where, now and then, I attend on behalf of the founder of the company – it is customary to make “man jokes” and talk in a slightly derogatory way about women. This is never aimed directly at me, but is seen merely as humourous banter. I am not expected to join in, but what exactly is expected of me, I cannot say. Once I made it clear afterwards that I do not find these jokes appropriate. The founder of the company – a brilliant supervisor, wise, highly educated with a successful wife and daughters – was downright amazed. He gave me to understand that I should laugh along and that fortunately I am not a humourless bra burner. Since then, I have been trying to deal with the “joke” with caustic humour. This is always met with confusion and a lack of understanding.

Every day I notice that men and women are different. It resonates in every communication, with every task that must be undertaken. Particularly in our dealings with each other. I also treat men and women differently.

Although I tend towards optimism, I have little hope for the future. Underneath, I believe the zenith of the emancipation in Germany has reached its peak and there will likely be a downward trend. Worldwide, the situation makes me even sadder – in large areas of the Earth, I feel women’s situations are almost hopeless. I don’t know whether it would be possible or sensible, to block genders out. However It should always be a matter of mutual respect, not gender. I very often wish for a change in thinking in men and more awareness of everyday sexism, but what is even more important to me is more courage and co-operation between women. We are still not very good at that.