Is society a man or not


Today women and men can basically take up any profession. But despite the freedom, most of them follow classic patterns in their choice of profession and course of study, with women more likely than men. It is important to think outside the box and discover the possibilities.

A male nurse feeds a bedridden man. When choosing a career, your own talents are important. (& copy picture-alliance, Klaus Rose / OKAPIA)

In the toy store, the world is light blue and pink: In the pink corner, "fairytale" experiment boxes "for little gardeners" are lined up next to shelves full of unicorns and ice princesses. In the blue universe, the experiment kits are called "Robot Control" or "Space Farm". Products that specifically appeal to boys or girls can also be found in drugstores and grocery stores, from pink and blue Smarties to bath crystals for "little mermaids" and "little pirates". There used to be children, today there seem to be only girls and boys who live in two completely different worlds.

Of course, boys and girls don't bathe or eat any differently, but companies can earn better money with gender marketing, criticizes Dr. Stevie Schmiedel, who started the Pinkstinks initiative. For them, this one-sidedness in the toy shops has far-reaching consequences - also for the choice of profession. "The world of games makes specifications. It assigns boys and girls certain skills. Girls are responsible for beautification, care and education. Boys operate in a technical world," she points out.

Scissors in the head

Dr. Stevie Schmiedel (& copy Yvonne Schmedemann)
She does not accept the argument "is just advertising": "Advertising is not a mirror of society, it shapes society and must be taken seriously." Because advertising cements traditional role models that have been found in career and study choices for decades. In the dual training occupations, young men predominantly choose training occupations in the fields of metal, electronics, construction or transport, while young women mostly choose occupations in administration and office, personal care or service.

We actually live in an enlightened time. "The ambivalence is shown, among other things, in the fact that fathers nowadays take their son for a walk in the stroller as a matter of course, but find it difficult to buy him a doll's pram to play with. There are scissors in the head!" Is the conclusion of Dr . Stevie Schmiedel.

A bundle of influences

Wenka Wentzel (& copy private)
It is difficult for parents to work against such role ascriptions in a targeted manner. "The pictures are simply very strong," says Wenka Wentzel from the Competence Center Technology-Diversity-Equal Opportunities. The competence center organizes the Girls’- and Boys‘Days, where boys can get a taste of social, educational and nursing activities and girls can get a taste of MINT jobs - that is, jobs related to mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology. "Young people grow up in a social climate in which equal opportunities seem to be a matter of course, but when choosing a career it becomes clear that there are still factors that prevent equal participation," emphasizes Wenka Wentzel.

Every career and study decision is the result of diverse, interlinked influencing factors, for example from the media, role models from family, friends and school. "How everyday working life works in the family, what parents, acquaintances and friends exemplify certainly have a very large influence," explains Wenka Wentzel.

Eliminating this influence is difficult. "Most young people do not want to attract attention or behave differently from the rest of their generation," explains Dr. Elisabeth Bublitz from the Hamburg World Economic Institute. She is co-author of a study on gender-specific career choices. A suspected negative reaction of the environment can become a great inhibition threshold: "If girls assume that their environment reacts negatively, for example because they want to become a car mechatronics engineer, they tend to leave it. The same applies to boys. The motivation, a job to seize, which is generally not classified as 'male', must be correspondingly high. "

Male and female professions

Christine Schramm-Spehrer (& copy private)
Christine Schramm-Spehrer knows from numerous workshops how strongly professions are perceived as male and female. She is a career advisor in the university team and is responsible for equal opportunities on the labor market at the Giessen Employment Agency: "When schoolchildren are to assign professions to the categories of 'male' or 'female', there is hardly any discussion." Computer science, mechanical engineering, physics? Male. Teaching profession, nutrition science, social affairs? Female.

This applies to both university and apprenticeships. There are now just as many women studying as men: of the 2.76 million students in the 2015/16 winter semester, 1.32 million were women. When it comes to courses, however, there is an invisible dividing line between men's and women's subjects: linguistics and cultural studies, social sciences, courses in health and social services are women's domains. In engineering, computer science and some math and science subjects, men are in the majority.

This rigid association can be broken, but only very slowly. In 2000 there were a good 27,000 computer science students in the first semester, of which almost 5,000 were women. In 2015, there were more than 8,000 women among the approximately 37,000 students. In 15 years the share has risen from just over 18 percent to almost 23 percent. In civil engineering, the proportion of women among first-year students was just over 23 percent in 2000, and a little over 30 percent in 2015.

There are also signs of a change in some training occupations. Among the mechatronics engineers, the proportion of women in the new training contracts rose from just under four to a good seven percent in 2015, and among tool mechanics it even rose from three to almost eight percent - a mini revolution.

Career choice based on talent

A gender-typical study or career choice is not bad per se: "If a choice is made that suits interests and skills, that is wonderful. It becomes problematic when young people simply adopt outdated images and ideas due to a lack of information and thus find their way Young women in particular often do not choose based on their talents, "says Christine Schramm-Spehrer.

Schoolchildren who are good at maths, for example, rarely choose to study electrical engineering or computer science, more likely to study mathematics or a course whose title sounds "not so technical", such as biomedical engineering and industrial engineering.

"To make matters worse, young women often assume 'women's professions' that there is a good work-life balance," explains the career counselor. But nothing. Night and shift work is common in nursing professions. The physical prerequisites are also often misjudged: "A nurse who transfers patients must be just as physically fit as a carpenter," she adds.

Moving many levers

Heidi Holzhauser (& copy private)
"Even young men do not always make decisions based on their actual interests and abilities," emphasizes Heidi Holzhauser, head of the competence center for equal opportunities in the labor market of the Federal Employment Agency. "Boys often only experience in practice or through role models that it can be their type to work directly with people, and that they would actually like to take a job in the care of the elderly or raising children." In order to promote a cliché-free career choice that really suits young people, the Federal Employment Agency has been breaking new ground for some time now: With the doctorate "Typically I!" and adolescent role models directly to young people via social media.

In order to bring about changes in the division of roles in the world of work, many levers have to be adjusted: "Because needs-based childcare options and a family-oriented personnel policy that allow women and men flexible training and working time models have a clear influence on the career choices of young people who later become families and want to combine a job. And then there is also the question of salary, "says Heidi Holzhauser.

Money makes a difference

Joachim Gerd Ulrich (& copy private)
Joachim Gerd Ulrich from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) looked at the development of the proportion of women in male-dominated professions from 2004 to 2015. "Women who decide to train in typical male occupations are rewarded with a training allowance that is on average higher than in typical female occupations. This is different for men who enter women's occupations. Because the salaries in women's occupations are on average rather low, "he explains.

More and more women are attaching importance to good pay. This is confirmed by a long-term survey of highly qualified specialists and executives, which was carried out by the Technical University of Munich on behalf of the Family Business Foundation. The survey of a total of 2,400 participants at the "Family Business Career Days" between 2008 and 2015 showed that in 2008, "attractive remuneration and social benefits" was one of the three most important criteria when choosing an employer for only 12.7 percent of the female applicants surveyed. In 2015 the proportion tripled to 38.1 percent (men: 46.4 percent). "When it comes to the question of the importance of remuneration, the genders are equal. For years, women have been more self-confident when it comes to salaries," explains Stefan Heidbreder, Managing Director of the Family Business Foundation. Nevertheless, salary is the top priority for men in the job profile they are looking for, while a good working atmosphere is still the most important factor for women.

While more and more women are gaining a foothold in male professions, the reverse cannot be observed for young men: "Their share in typical female professions has hardly changed in the last twelve years," says Joachim Gerd Ulrich.

Role models are effective

The "time" factor could play an important role in increasing the proportion of women in male occupations. "It is noticeable that greater increases in the proportion of women were achieved in those male occupations in which there were already slightly more women than in other typical male occupations," explains Joachim Gerd Ulrich. Perhaps higher proportions can at some point develop a kind of suction effect and thus increase the annual growth in the proportion of young women over time.

The article first appeared on March 2nd, 2017 on, an offer from the Federal Employment Agency.