Young women feel pressured

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Young women feel pressured: women have a devastating testimony to politics

For the generation of 25 to 35 year olds, financial independence is high on the list of goals to be achieved today. And men see it that way too. Many of them feel torn and pressured by the desire to have children and at the same time to build a professional career. This is confirmed by a new study carried out by the Berlin Science Center for Social Research (WZB) on behalf of the women's magazine "Brigitte" and which was presented in Berlin.

The political model of the full-time mother, who is also the loving family manager, puts many young women under enormous pressure. This is more evident today than five years ago, when the same group of women and men had already been asked about their social and self-image. Women currently want a well-paid job that also opens up career opportunities.

For 91 percent of those questioned, the job and their own money are very important. What is surprising for the head of the study, WZB President Jutta Allmendinger, is the clarity with which men also insist that her partner "provide for her own living".

Today 76 percent agree with this statement. That is 22 percent more than in 2007. Allmendinger recognizes in these results a "social change" in the topic of women on the job market.

It is no longer a question of whether women should go to work or not. “Today, no woman has to ask for permission to work. Today the question is rather whether you should have children. The study shows that women today feel alone when it comes to shaping their professional and family lives. The fear of being left out of work as a mother is widespread. “If you have children, you cannot really have a career,” answers more than half of the young women (53 percent) today. Five years ago, it was only 36 percent. In contrast, there are 93 percent with the same high desire to have children, which has been implemented by less than half. Politicians are given a devastating testimony.

However, everyone agrees on one question: social inequality has increased. Around a third of women today find it more difficult to reconcile work and family life. In 2007, respondents were not as critical of the question of career opportunities as they are today. At that time, 99 percent of the statement "I am good at what I do" agreed.

Already in 2009 there were first signs of increasing dissatisfaction among women. At the time, they complained that men were preferred to them at work, hardly helped at home and received more recognition for two months of parental leave than they did for a whole year. Instead of resigning, they demanded equal wages, fair partnerships and improved childcare.

Women rarely want to take a break for more than a year. 70 percent of them are "angry that women are discriminated against", 62 percent agree with a "binding quota for women" - according to Allmendinger, a remarkable result, because young women, unlike older women, often reject quota regulations. Men tend to be less willing to change anything. This is particularly evident in their use of parental leave. Although 50 percent of men state that they want to combine family and work, 31 percent cannot imagine taking a break. The increasing dissatisfaction of women with lack of opportunities for advancement and lack of support is an expression of their current personal situation.

Many women rarely want to stay at home longer than a year after the birth of their children. Here the percentage is 30 percent. In 2009 it was 36 percent. A retraditionalization, as is often assumed in women as soon as they have children, cannot be seen by Allmendinger. Nowadays, work is no longer seen as an opportunity for social participation, but as a “hard economic factor,” says Allmendinger. Many simply cannot afford to stay at home.

Women and men should only work 32 hours. Well-educated women are generally happier with their lives and jobs than they were five years ago. Women with a lower level of education are less satisfied. This dissatisfaction is only topped by less educated men. For educational researcher Allmendinger, the widening social gap is a cause for concern, because in the long run children will only be given to those who can afford to help raise their children.

Allmendinger warns Germany to continue to focus so heavily on full social employment. Especially since full-time is usually defined as "40 plus 10" hours. In their view, politicians should see to it that working hours be reduced to around 32 hours a week. "If you can have a career with fewer hours, problems like unequal pay will automatically decrease," she says. Allmendinger does not believe in the so-called "mommy tracks", slower career tracks that employers set up for mothers. (fr)

Image: Julien Christ /

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