Inspirational Women: Success stories from Germany

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Germany is one of the few countries in the world that are being run by a woman. Additionally, Germany helped cultivate the feminist movement at a time when the German women’s duties were defined by the 3 K’s: “Kinder, Küche, und Kirche” (Children, Kitchen, and Church). [1]

However, according to recent data, Germany is still far behind its main rivals in terms of placing women into senior management roles. Furthermore, it is estimated that, even though around 71% of women between the ages of 15 to 65 work outside of the home, relatively small percent of these women work in professional positions and almost a half of them work part time. [2]

Luckily, there are success stories that highlight the need for an open discussion about equal representation, rights and opportunities for women in Germany.

Among the few examples of successful German women who have managed to enter a male dominated sphere where women seem to be preconditioned to fail is Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, the recently appointed President of the European Commission. She is the first woman to ever be elected for the job and the first German since the Commission’s first president, Walter Hallstein.

Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen served in the federal government of Germany from 2005 to 2019 as the longest-serving member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet. Von der Leyen is of German and British American descent. She was born in Brussels and lived there till the family’s move to Hanover in 1971, when her father entered politics to become Minister President of the state of Lower Saxony in 1976. She studied economy at the London School of Economics in the late 1970s, and later graduated as a physician from the Hanover Medical School in 1987. Her focus during the studies was on women’s health. In 1986 she got married and went to Stanford, California to live there, while her husband was on faculty at Stanford University. She returned to Germany in 1996 and became involved in local politics in the Hanover region. After several important roles, she became a Minister of Defense in 2013, entering history as the first woman to serve as a German defense minister. [3]

On 2 July 2019, von der Leyen was nominated by the European Council as a candidate for the role of President of the European Commission and was elected by the European Parliament on 16 July. Von der Leyen has been regarded as potential successor of Merkel in the past, since she is a long-time close ally of the Chancellor. Her plans to fill EU commissioner posts with equal numbers of men and women seem promising and hopes are high that Von der Leyen will be as assertive in the fight for that cause as women in Germany and beyond expect her to be. [4]

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