Women are like men - but cheaper | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.03.2011

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Women are like men - but cheaper

In Germany, March 25 is Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into 2011 women would have to work to earn the same amount men earned in 2010. Germany's wage gap is the fourth worst in the European Union.

A woman in an office

Women are less likely to ask for a pay raise or promotion

When it comes to achieving equal pay for women, Germany has work to do.

Last year, German women earned on average 23 percent less than their male colleagues, putting them worse off than most of their European counterparts, who on average earned 18 percent less than men.

The main reasons for the wage gap are the gender stereotypes and the types of jobs that women do, says Henrike von Platen, president of the Network of Business and Professional Women in Germany.

"The jobs filled primarily by women are usually paid a lot worse than the branches dominated by men," said Platen.

In Germany, especially in rural areas, many people still follow traditional gender roles, which influence the distribution of tasks in families as well as the manner in which men and women choose jobs.

In a rural community, up to 40 percent of women hold part-time jobs earning less than 400 euros ($567) a month, says Gabriele Sturm of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development.

Women (not) on top

a man and two women by the office copy machine

Germany and Austria have some of the largest gender wage gaps in the EU

Even if women do work full-time in a professional capacity, they are still a rarity in leadership positions. Women make up just 12 percent of corporate boardrooms in Germany, according to Fidar, an organization that works to put more women in corporate leadership positions.

When it comes to getting more women in management positions, Germany would do well to take a hint from its neighbors, says Ida Hiller of the Federal Consortium of Women's Bureau. In Switzerland, she says "businesses that do nothing to promote women to management positions or to reduce inequality in pay do not receive public contracts."

Don't ask, don't tell

Another piece of the pay inequality puzzle is that women are often reluctant to ask for raises or promotions, says von Platen.

Statistics show that women in Germany ask for lower salaries than men and rarely ask for pay raises or a company car.

But the real problem, says Platen, is that in Germany, people just don't talk about their salaries, making it hard to know where to start negotiations.

"In different countries it's absolutely normal that you say, 'I earn such and such an amount,' but in Germany, it's absolutely hidden," she said.

Author: Dagmar Breitenbach, Sarah Harman
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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