Women’s Suffrage Anniversary in Germany
100 years ago, women were allowed to vote in Germany for the first time. When the Germans appointed their National Assembly on January 19, 1919, women had the right to vote and stand for the first time. At that time, the 37 women who moved into the National Assembly, were 8.7 % of the deputies.
By international comparison, Germany was thus quite modern: together with Luxembourg (1919) and Austria (1918), it was one of the early countries to grant women the right to vote. In the UK, women was given the right to vote only in 1928, in France in 1944, in Italy in 1946, and in Switzerland in 1971. Until then, it was a long road for women to win the right to political and economic participation. Incidentally, the German Social Party, SPD, was the first party in Germany to demand that women vote in their party program – that was in 1891.
A little more than 100 years later, in 1998, the then SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder described women’s politics as “fuss”, an almost as well-known verbal derailment as the famous “peanuts” by Hilmar Kopper, at that time CEO of Deutsche Bank. Although such derailments are later often regretted because they are politically incorrect, they probably show how people actually think, when there is no political-correctness filter.
There is still a lot of room for improvement
Meanwhile, we have Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, and there are various party leaders and ministers, but among the 709 deputies in the German Bundestag today there are only 219 women, which corresponds to a rate of 30.9%. In the German state parliaments, Hamburg is currently at the top with a women’s quota of 38.8% and Thuringia with 38.5%, while Baden-Wuerttemberg (24.5%) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (25.4%) are at the bottom. Among the mayors in Germany, 9% are female, and around a quarter of the almost 100 highest federal authorities are under female leadership. In the private sector, things don’t look better: Fewer than 14% of the board members of the DAX companies are female, namely 27 out of 197.
The topic of gender justice can therefore not be ticked off 100 years after the introduction of women’s suffrage in Germany. Thus, it is important to investigate the reasons for the still low participation of women in business and politics and to reduce barriers. These are hard nuts to crack, and this cannot be done with a temporary promotion of women or a one-time women’s event. But it’s worth having the goal permanently in mind. After all, the goal of gender justice, i.e. equality between men and women, has been anchored in the German constitution since 1919, and in many other constitutions as well. And are these constitutions about “fuss”?