This is going to be a tough topic and I am prepared for a shit storm to follow 😉 First of all: I acknowledge that equality (e.g. between male and female and trans-genders, between different races, between whatever…) is reached in VERY different levels in different areas of the world. Since I do not live ‘everywhere’ and I have not gathered experience in 50 different countries, I can not meaningfully judge equality situations around the globe. Hence I can only reflect on the situation in Germany and you should take this into consideration while reading. So please do not feel personally hurt if you are coming from a country where e.g. women are not allowed to drive cars on their own. I am NOT talking about anything but the situation in Germany. If I think that parts of my thoughts are globally feasible I will highlight those. Understand this to be a disclaimer for further reading. Disclaimer number 2: I am not offering solutions in this post, I am just stating opinions.
Okay. Let’s do this! 🙂 Let me begin with a rough outline of the AS-IS situation in Germany. I will start with an example: If you read job offers from government organizations or even from some companies in Germany you will see a closing sentence like “We support women/migrants/disabled people for this role. If a woman/migrant/disabled person with equal qualification applies for the position he/she will be preferred to get the job.”
If you look at the logically equivalent to this statement this reads: “If you have equal qualification and you are not a woman, not a migrant, nor disabled, you only get the job if there is no one from the mentioned groups with an equivalent qualification.”
This sentence raises a big STOP sign in my mind and hurts my sense of equality. Because it tells me that even if I give my best to get the best qualifications and my CV has all the needed experience in it, I succesfully master the whole interview and test process, this will not be enough to get the job as long as there is someone who belongs to a group of people that is “supported” and has achieved more or less the same. That means: it is possible that I do not get a job in the end, not because I failed or someone was just a better candidate. It could just be because I have a penis. In the same way as I don’t want to get a job BECAUSE of having a penis, I do not want someone else to get a job because she has a vagina. (At least as long as we are not applying for a job in the porn industry or something ;-))
Discussions in the political landscape of Germany have covered many equality topics. For instance quotas for women in management positions, discussions about the gender pay gap or even the support of children from “educationally challenged” families (bottom line this discussion is about the problem that a kid of a working class family is less likely to go to university than a kid of a family where both parents have a university degree). Some of the discussed problems are feasible problems. Without a question. And it is fair and good to discuss them. I just dislike the consequences of these discussions like ‘quotas by law’ or ‘preferences of supported groups in hiring processes’. The reason why I dislike these outcomes is that all of them are focussing on symptoms not on causes.
Another example is from my last job: I was about to hire a developer. During the CV screening phase our HR person came back to me with a CV of a young lady that I had rejected. And she said to me “Don’t you want to look at her again? You should hire her, you have soooo few women in your department!”. That sentence made me think for the first time about the gender of my team members. Up to this point I was not giving a fuck if I was hiring people with penises or vaginas or none of both, because I was hiring people with brains and skills. A weird feeling spread inside of me: Am I discriminating women in the hiring process? At that point I had roughly a ratio of 15% females within my department (which is retrospectively not too bad for an IT department). I cracked my head against walls for some evenings to understand if discrimination was the reason for this fact. After a lot of thinking I convinced myself that I was not discriminating anyone in my hiring process besides stupidity. I was fine with this sort of discrimination. 😉 I was wondering why this topic made me so concerned, why it even came up and why I felt as if it is an accusation in my direction. Here is the outcome:
The “4 assholes out of 100” theory
First of all the “4%” is neither a scientifically proven number nor anything more than a gut feeling. I just needed a number for the title 🙂
Okay, there needs to be a reason why discrimination in the professional area is still being discussed today. And the reason is that there needs to be a certain percentage of people within our society that is really discriminating e.g. women. Otherwise there is no problem to talk about. These are the first 2% of the society that are assholes and obviously one should get rid of them. On the other hand there are extremists (e.g. feminists, social justice warriors, interest groups of different religions) who are aggressively yelling on the rest of the society stating that women (for sake of simplicity I will stick to the women vs. men example here) become discriminated in Germany and that essentially every man (if not more) is a chauvinist. These are the second 2% of the society that are assholes and (not so obviously) one should get rid of them too.
Hence there is a minority of 4% among people in Germany which is driving and causing the whole topic. As one of the 96% of potential non-assholes in the society you have now a bunch of big problems:
- A silent fear is spreading. The same fear that made me concerned “Am I discriminating women, because I was not hiring this young lady?” . The easy and wrong solution to this question is: “I should just hire more women, then I can not be a chauvinist!” in turn that means: if not enough great female candidates are in the hiring process, I am still under the silent accusation to be a chauvinist. Hence I will start to hire women, because they are female and not because of their brains and skills.
- A silent, easy and wrong way to avoid self-criticism arises: If a women is rejected from a job, she could tell herself that she was not given the job, because the hiring manager was discriminating her. Since people usually hate self-criticism and also hate to see their own weaknesses, this is an easy and in 98% of the cases wrong excuse. It also avoids a reflection process that makes you understand in which areas you should improve. External reasons for failure are always more easily accepted than internal ones.
The end result is that a hiring manager forcing hisself to actively hire more women and candidates that do not reflect their own mistakes and in turn do not improve. In some cases the manager will hire then women because they are women and not because they are the best for the job. Which is a discrimination of men as well as women.
A friend of mine that I was explaining my thoughts to disagreed. She said: “Since inequal salaries between men and women are real and since more than a few percent of society are negotiating these salaries, discrimination of females is caused by more than a few percent. Hence it is a bigger issue than you are saying. Same goes for women in management roles.”
Again I thought a lot about these words. The argument seemed feasible. Where is my logical mistake then? I did not see it. If the conclusion seems right, but the end result is still wrong, start to question the assumptions. The assumption here is “Companies discrimate women by paying them 20% less salary than equally qualified men for the same role” “Companies are discriminating women by not having a 50/50 split between men and women in management roles”. At first these statements seem to be obvious. But instead of questioning these assumptions I was brainwashed by the second 2% of assholes in society and just took them for granted. One has to really understand the implication of these assumptions. This means that almost EVERY hiring manager in almost EVERY company across Germany is discriminating women. I decided for myself that this is really unlikely and that I am not willing to believe it.
Most companies – especially big ones – are highly capitalistic units. Their only interest is money and more money. It is nowadays common sense that a company makes the most money if they hire the best people. Since there is a war for talent going on, companies cannot afford that top talents move to their competitors. Obviously being a top talent is independent of gender and hence it would be against the definition of the capitalistic basis of these companies to not hire a woman if she is the best for the job. So I started thinking and researching on the topic.
I tried to find examples of inequally treated women and very succesful women I got known to in my life and I tried to find explanations for the way they were being treated. First I observed that there was an inequality of salaries within my department between men and women in the same roles. It was not huge, but it was real. With a relatively small team size around 30 people it is tough to compare salaries simply because it is tough to find a peer for everyone which is doing more or less the same job and brings more or less the same experience. If you have read my posts on how salary negotiations were done by me , you will know that I was not negotiating salaries for real. I was always trying to give people a salary that they were comfortable with. In my negotiation process it was almost only possible that someone earned less than someone else, if he had asked for less. I tried to recall the interviews with the ladies of my department. I even digged up the notes from these interviews which I kept in a small notebook. I tried to compare these to the interviews I had done with the guys of the department. Very quickly it was clear to me that the boys were much more aggressive in asking for money than the girls. The ladies were mostly shy.
On the other hand I reviewed women which were fellow students of mine and looked up how their carreer path went during the last 10 years. The result can be essentially broken down to one sentence: all (!) women which I thought have been much smarter than I was during our studies are selfconfident, intelligent, strong women that became top talents and made their way to leadership roles in their companies or even became professors at universities. Hence I started to believe that lower salaries have nothing to do with gender but with personality. While I was researching on the topic I learned about the adjusted gender pay gap and I learned that besides a remainder of 2 % to 7 % there are explanations given for why the gap exists – all of them of non-discriminating nature.
Let’s get back to the 4 %: Bottom line I believe that discrimination is an almost non-existing thing in Germany. If you meet one of the 2 % of assholes in management positions that discrimate some group of people, fight them and help to end the discrimination or ignore them and move to another company. If you meet one of the yelling 2 % extremists, ask yourself what the real and honest goal of that person is. I give you an example and some catch words: extreme feminists claim that they are for equality. Read about the occupational fatality gap , look up the female quota of e.g. flushers, garbagemen or jobs in the construction industry (FYI: the quota is less than 1 % in Germany) and ask yourself, how much the feminist is interested in equality if he is asking for a 50 % quota in top management roles but not for a 50 % quota in flusher jobs.
Do not make yourself the playball of the 4 %. Don’t be afraid of silent false accusations against you if you are a manager. Reflect about yourself and counter the prolly wrong arguments that try to prove you being a chauvinist. Do not avoid self-criticism if you are a candidate for the sake of ease. Do you really want to get a job because you belong to a certain group of people or do you want a job because you are good at what you are doing?
What are your thoughts on the topic? Is discrimination in the professional world of Germany a real issue? Leave a comment.