Gender Equality Policy in Germany

To achieve de facto gender equality, existing inequalities in all areas of life have to be overcome. Germany's Gleichstellungspolitik (Gender Equality Policy) rests on several pillars and inequalities are tackled by a variety of measures - for example, with regard to gender equality on the labour market, by ensuring equal pay for equal work and work of equal value as well as promoting pay transparency, or by promoting women's equal access to leadership positions. Gender-based violence is a human rights violation and both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality. This is why domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and sexual exploitation are combatted through a number of initiatives.

Women in top management positions

The number of top women managers lags significantly behind that of men despite comparable career paths. This applies to all levels of management and is especially evident at the top, on company boards. Only 10,8 per cent of executive board positions in Germany's 185 largest listed companies are held by women.

Focus areas, responsibilities and aims

Although the glass ceiling has developed a few cracks over time, the job opportunities offered to women are lagging far behind what women have to offer in return. Company structures need to change. They need to be made more competitive and more innovative. And they need to give the vast number of highly qualified women access to top positions. Legislative and non-legislative measures are now in place to ensure this.

Current measures

Statutory provisions are aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions. Non-legislative measures take the form of regional alliances for equality: government and industry are working together to put the measures in place to promote career development opportunities for women at regional level.

  • The German Act on Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions in the Private and Public Sectors is expected to be further developed in accordance with the coalition agreement to improve its effectiveness
  • Transparency: monitoring data and trends in the proportion of women in leadership positions and promoting platforms for exchange between industry, industry associations, the public sector and government to foster discourse on current developments and trends.

Achieving gender equality on the labour market

Career biographies and job-related decisions of women and men differ greatly: women still tend to suspend their careers more often and for longer than men, and they more often work part-time in order to do unpaid care work (child care, care for elderly or disabled relatives, household work). Also, compared with men, women in Germany still more often work in jobs that offer limited hours or no social security, as well as in short-term jobs. Women often work in lower-income sectors and jobs. The employment market is thus a key focus area when it comes to equality policy fostering an equal footing between women and men on the labour market.

Focus areas, responsibilities and aims

Bearing the differing employment biographies of women and men in mind, the aim is to achieve equal income opportunities for women and men in all phases of life. Effective equality policy gives women and men equal rights at work.

Current measures

Die Bundesregierung (the Federal Government) promotes equality between women and men in the working world and works to achieve equally fair and long-term income opportunities. It is taking a holistic approach that addresses the different causes of gender inequality on the labour market. This includes tackling the gender pay gap, which amounts to 20 percent in Germany, upgrading the value of typical women's jobs such as care professions, the right to return to a job on a full-time basis after a period of working part-time (so-called "Brücken-Teilzeit", "bridge part-time") as well as rights to better reconcile work and private life and supporting daycare for children.

The Act to Promote Transparency in Wage Structures among Women and Men, das Gesetz zur Förderung der Transparenz von Entgeltstrukturen (Transparency in Wage Structures Act), which came into force in 2017, provides a clear legal basis for the principle of equal pay. The Act entitles employees individually to obtain information on wages, requires companies to file reports on gender equality and equal pay calls on companies to conduct internal pay reviews.

Protecting women from violence

One in four women in Germany experience some form of physical or sexual violence or emotional abuse at some time in their lives. This can occur at home, in the form of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, violence against and exploitation of prostitutes and trafficking in women. Violence against women also affects their children, either as victims of violence themselves or as witnesses of violence against their mothers.

Focus areas, responsibilities and aims

Everyone has the right to live a life free from violence. Exposure to violence impacts victims' ability to live a life free from worry and fear.

Current measures

The national Hilfetelefon "Gewalt gegen Frauen" (Violence Against Women helpline) offers around-the-clock support on 365 days per year and can be reached via phone, chat or email. More than 80 qualified female support workers offer help and guidance to women who are affected by violence, people from their social circle and professionals working in the sector. The support is free of charge, anonymous, confidential and available in 18 languages. An online service can be reached.

In 2018, Germany ratified and implemented the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).

One of the current measures to prevent violence against women is the initiative "Stärker als Gewalt" (Stronger than violence). The website combines existing support offers for women who are affected by violence and offers practical solutions and ways to help and support. Additionally, the German government supports the establishment of women's refuges and other support organisations with the Government funding programme "Gemeinsam gegen Gewalt an Frauen" (Together against Violence towards Women).

To improve working conditions in legal prostitution and protect prostitutes against exploitation, forced prostitution and human trafficking, der Deutsche Bundestag (the German Parliament) passed in 2016 das "Gesetz zur Regulierung des Prostitutionsgewerbes sowie zum Schutz von der in der Prostitution tätigen Personen, ProstSchG", (law to regulate the prostitution trade and protect sex workers). The aim is to create a legal basis for guaranteeing contractual working conditions, protecting the health of prostitutes, and combatting crime in prostitution, such as human trafficking, violence against, and the exploitation of, prostitutes. The law entered into force in July 2017 and since then has been implemented by the Bundesländer (Federal States). Das Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women an Youth) contributes to a nationwide implementation of the law through a number of ongoing initiatives and measures as well as through a systematic and regular exchange and close cooperation between the Federal Ministry and the Bundesländer (Federal States).

New roles for boys and men

Equality between women and men can only be achieved if both receive equal attention. This means giving women and men greater choices in family and working life, and also in society as a whole. And it means enabling them to share their responsibilities equally as partners.

Focus areas, responsibilities and aims

In society, there exist a large range of gender-specific roles. When it comes to equality, these become important where they result in an imbalance between the opportunities available to women and men. This becomes evident, for example, in choices concerning employment and academic study, in career opportunities, the gender pay gap and deciding who assumes responsibility for the family. The Federal Government thus aims to support the achievement of lifestyles that move away from the trodden gender role path.

Current measures

Annual "Girls' Day" and "Boys' Day" events support young girls and boys in finding their own way to the working and academic world. They encourage them to find their strengths, follow their interests and ignore ingrained gender stereotypes.

Beside "Girls' Day" and "Boys' Day", die bundesweite "Initiative Klischeefrei" (the federal initiative "No clichés") aims to establish non-clichéd vocational and study choices, free from restrictive gender stereotypes. To all those involved in the vocational choice process (early childhood education, schools, universities, companies, institutions, vocational guidance centres, and parents) it offers wide-ranging support enabling them to help girls and boys make vocational choices that match their strengths - and not gender stereotypes.

The online magazine "meinTestgelände - Das Gendermagazin" (My testing ground) is the only website in Germany and the German-speaking countries to publish authentic and unedited posts on gender and equality by youths and so triggers discussions not only among young people but also with professionals. The portal is operated by teenage editorial teams. The posts are about topics such as what it means to be a girl, a boy or LSBTQI*. Moreover, the youngsters address gender roles and inequalities based on sex, colour, religion, disabilities, culture or beauty and body concepts. In addition, they discuss life paths and plans for the future, school and work, youth culture and women's rights.

Some 5000 professional youth workers exchange views on, and experiences of, anything to do with "gender" in a Facebook account connected to the website.

The Project "Men and Change" aims at including boys, men, and fathers in every gender equality policy under a life course perspective. Issues of particular importance are - among others: (self-)care, life planning, career choice, men as perpetrators and victims of violence, work-life balance. The realisation of the concept of "caring masculinities" can - in the long run - play an important part in the redistribution of work in society, in reducing the gender pay gap, and in improving men's health.

In order to offer specific counselling for men, a training of male counsellors as disseminators began in 2019. The two-year project should finally turn into a growing training system.

Die Bundesfach- und Koordinierungsstelle Männergewaltschutz (the National Coordination Centre for the Protection of Men against Violence) is being created in the course of a two-year project. Its aims are:

  • sensitisation of the public to violence against men
  • creation of shelters for male victims and their children
  • creation of low-threshold counselling for men
  • coordination and networking on a national level

International gender equality policy

Despite progress in many areas, no country in the world has achieved de facto gender equality yet. Therefore, Germany cooperates closely at international level to promote further progress. Gender equality in all parts of the world remains an important goal. The United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and numerous other international organizations and multilateral forums all work with this in mind. International milestones achieved so far include the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW, adopted in 1979 and in force since 1981) and the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, at which all UN member states adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The European Union has committed all its Member States, by means of EU law and other measures, to stamp out gender-based discrimination and promote equality between women and men - especially in the labour market. The most prominent example is Germany's implementation of the relevant EU Directives into national law in the form of the Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (General Equal Treatment Act, AGG) and the Entgelttransparenzgesetz (Transparency in Wage Structures Act, EntgTranspG).

Focus areas, responsibilities and aims

The Federal Government works with international partners to maintain and, where necessary, enhance and implement international standards and norms. Agreements at EU and international level are supported and implemented by means of measures conducted under national gender equality law.

Current international framework and measures

Beijing+25 and beyond: the year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. On this occasion, UN Women along with UN member states have launched a new international gender equality process, in which governments and civil society work hand in hand to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform and agree on the further steps to be taken to achieve gender equality by 2030.

Germany's periodic state reports and implementation measures of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) - the ninth CEDAW State Report is due in March 2021 -, and the implementation and reporting process is accompanied by a regular consultation process both with the UN CEDAW committee and with civil society.

20th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Protecting the Rights of Women During Armed Conflict and Equal Participation of Women in Peace Negotiations, Conflict Settlement and Post-Conflict Reconstruction (also known as the Resolution on Women, Peace and Security): So far, Germany has adopted two Nationale Aktionspläne (National Action Plans, NAP) to implement UN Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The NAP is reviewed and progress is reported in periodic national implementation reports.

Gender equality, with emphasis on two major issues, the economic empowerment of women and the prevention of and protection from gender-based violence, will be a focus area during Germany's EU Council Presidency in 2020. Germany also cooperates closely at EU-level to work for ambitious implementation of the current EU Gender Equality Strategy, which was introduced by the EU Commission in March 2020.

Respecting same-sex lifestyles and gender identity

To achieve gender equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual as well as transgender and intersex people, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has initiated a wide variety of measures covering different thematic areas.

An online information platform called "Regenbogenportal - Das Wissensnetz zu gleichgeschlechtlichen Lebensweisen und geschlechtlicher Vielfalt" (Rainbow Web Portal - The knowledge network on same-sex lifestyles and gender diversity) went online in May 2019.

The portal is a source of information, a database and a knowledge network at the same time. It provides information on topics such as health, family and law and has provided practical guidance, thanks to its overview of about 400 points of contact nationwide. The Rainbow Web Portal provides a comprehensive knowledge network for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people, queer people and their families and dependants, but also for teachers and professionals of various sectors.

Currently, the set-up of a dialogue forum is being prepared in order to expand counselling and support services for trans* and inter* people nationwide and to improve and safeguard the quality of the services. A first meeting at working level to plan the cooperation and to set up a service point supporting the initiative has already taken place. The start of the dialogue forum has been announced for the first semester of 2020.

An international conference on the Topic "Quo Vadis Europe in relation to LGBTI*/gender diversity with a focus on rainbow families, life situations of lesbian women" is being planned on the occasion of the German EU Council Presidency. In addition to that, the annual Focal Points Network Meeting - the annual meeting of LGBTI* divisions of the countries represented in the Council of Europe - will be hosted.

The ministry is also involved in the proposed legislation in Consulting das Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz (the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection) on the Entwurf eines Gesetzes zum Schutz von Kindern vor geschlechtsverändernden operativen Eingriffen (draft law on the protection of children from gender-altering surgery). The draft law is currently being prepared.