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Conditionally equal
Culture

Conditionally equal

11/9/2018 Editor Martin Frommhold Reading time: 2 Minutes
Men and women are equal. It’s right there in the constitution: article 3, paragraph 2. Problem solved. But if that is the case, why are there still fewer women than men in leadership positions? Why, then, do female workers usually earn less than their male colleagues? Or inversely: what is actually stopping men for claiming more parental leave? Robert Franken, a business consultant and male feminist, found answers to these questions on the edge of an event run by Plan F, the network for women in business at OTTO.

Let’s put it simply, Robert: men do not want to give up their privileges in the working world, so they impede the equality of women. Right?

This theory may be partially true. But ultimately the causes are in the system and its traditional, homogenous framework conditions. Men still benefit from these more than women. So it has to be far more about explaining to men why a system change is actually beneficial to them and why it creates new, individual options. Lots of men don’t actually realise how constricting the historical definition of the male role is. This always primarily focuses on the obligations, the professional career, developing a status - and the result of this is supposedly allegedly secure partnerships and securely established families. A depressing inevitability! But of course it should also be possible to work part-time, prioritise family life, claim parental leave and have more time for their children. These are definitely attractive arguments to get men excited about the subject of equality.

The mix makes it happen! Because neither women nor men can remove the obstacles that stand in their way on their own.

Robert Franken, self-proclaimed developer of potential

Lots of formats and events on the subject of equality are almost exclusively attended by women. Should we not perhaps obligate men to participate to enable the necessary system change to be implemented more quickly?

No. Forcing people usually causes resistance. And not all men have to become feminists to make progress with equality. It seems to be much more promising to capitalise on thematic interest and for example to focus less on subjects that are purely about women in communication. So how must lectures, events and podium discussions be tailored so that more men are interested and feel like they are invited? The compatibility of family and career is equally interesting to men and women. This also applies to flexibly working, ‘new work’ and digitalisation. This strategy seems a little like a Trojan horse, but it’s really logical and actually clever. In the end systematic changes can only be sustainable if everyone works together. The mix makes it happen! Because neither women nor men can remove the obstacles that stand in their way on their own. We need more force behind us to do that. And this will be found by including the other gender, in other words maximum participation.

You say that diversity is the coping strategy for everyone, which relates to us and companies in general. Can you explain that?

In many companies increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity - VUCA for short - are phenomena that are being detected more and more. And more and more decision-makers agree that they cannot really predict how societies, companies and trends develop on this basis. Consequently, our personal situations and professional careers are also affected as there are fewer and fewer linear life paths. In light of these complicated challenges, there can therefore only be one promising coping strategy, namely one that includes as many perspectives in forward-looking observations as possible. The key word for this is “cognitive variety” - and this must be brought into effect, which can work in the correspondingly shaped environments. And a very important aspect of this is equality for all.

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