What causes gender inequality

Social change in Germany

Rainer Geissler

Prof. em. Dr. Rainer Geißler is a sociologist at Faculty I - Seminar for Social Sciences at the University of Siegen. His research and teaching focuses on social structure analysis and social inequality; Educational sociology and socialization research; Migration and integration; the society of Canada; Sociology of Mass Communication and Sociology of Deviant Behavior.
His address is: University of Siegen / Faculty I / Adolf-Reichwein-Straße 2/57068 Siegen / email: [email protected]

In addition to class-specific differentiations, social inequalities between the sexes are one of the essential characteristics of modern societies. While the disadvantage of women in the education system has now disappeared, it lives on in a weakened form in the world of work, in politics and especially in the family.

In industrial society, a special form of gender-specific division of labor had developed in the world of work, in public life and in the private sphere. There were typical differences between women and men in terms of social living conditions and social role requirements, which were reflected in gender-specific socialization processes on personality, attitudes, motivations and behavior. The social structure analysis assumes that social inequalities between women and men do not stem from natural, biological differences, but that they are essentially based on social causes.

As in all developed societies, differentiations of this kind have been weakened in Germany in the last few decades. Apparently, the tendency to reduce social inequalities between women and men is one of the general "emancipatory trends" (Norbert Elias 1989) in modern society. As the gender-typical differences decrease, sensitivity towards the remaining ones increases at the same time. There is a growing awareness that many of the persistent gender differences are socially injustice; social inequality between women and men is increasingly "de-legitimized".

Education and training

Proportion of school leavers with different school qualifications (& copy data source: Federal Statistical Office)
In the first decades after the war, the education sector proved to be the sector in which typical gender inequalities could be reduced the fastest and best. Girls have always achieved better school grades and were less likely to sit down. But it was only the discussion about the inequality of educational opportunities in the 1960s that encouraged them to translate better school performance into appropriate educational qualifications.

In the early 1980s, their share of high school graduates corresponded to their share of the population; in the GDR this had already been the case about two decades earlier. In the meantime, the previously considerable female educational deficit in the general school system has turned into a slight educational lead in the course of the educational expansion. In 2012, girls only made up minorities of 40 and 42 percent of school leavers with and without a secondary school certificate; on the other hand, they were overrepresented among high school graduates with 55 percent and with 52 percent when acquiring the technical college entrance qualification.

Share of women among students at universities (& copy Rainer Geißler, Die Sozialstruktur Deutschlands, 7th, fundamentally revised edition, Wiesbaden 2014, p. 376)
The barriers that young women encountered on their way to higher education were higher and harder to remove. In 1960, almost three quarters of the students in both German societies were men. Through more stringent regulations on admission to studies, but also through a targeted mother-friendly design of study conditions (free childcare at universities, special accommodation, child allowances for scholarships, special regulations for the course of study), the study opportunities of women in the GDR were able to match those of the Men are assimilated. In the Federal Republic the development took place more hesitantly. The proportion of women at universities stagnated at around 40 percent in the 1980s; in 1995 it was 44 percent. Only in the past decade have women caught up with men. In 2012, the proportion of women among students at universities in East and West was 50.5 and 50.4 percent, respectively.

For some years now, the formula of the boys as the "new losers in education" has been making the rounds. The causes of male educational deficits have so far only been very inadequately researched. It is pointed out that boys are significantly more likely to experience parenting problems and behavioral problems, for example as patients in appropriate therapy centers or as sufferers of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is controversial whether the strong feminization of upbringing in day-care centers and elementary schools has resulted in "female school biotopes" that do not adequately meet the needs of boys for male role models, physical activity, technical and technical orientation, competitive behavior and "insubordination". However, it should be noted that the disadvantages of the "old losers in education" - children from educationally disadvantaged families or certain migrant groups - move in completely different dimensions. Compared to their dramatic educational deficits, which are also embedded in other social disadvantages, those of the boys look rather harmless.
The gender proportions at the secondary educational institutions illuminate only one aspect of gender-typical equal opportunities. Women's research rightly emphasizes that traditional differences between the sexes persist when it comes to deciding on certain school and study subjects and, in particular, in vocational training. Women still tend to concentrate on "typical women" courses such as education, social, linguistic and cultural studies. In 2011, their share in engineering sciences was just 20 percent (West) and 19 percent (East) and in mathematics / natural sciences only 34 and 35 percent.

Gender equality encounters greater problems in vocational training than in schools and universities. Women are strongly overrepresented in vocational training at full-time schools, for example for educators, nurses, geriatric nurses or physiotherapists. Although these training courses take a comparatively long time and are expensive (no continuous training allowance, sometimes high school fees), they cannot be converted into corresponding salaries on the labor market. One year after completing their training, women earn an average of 14 percent less than men. Another disadvantage is that young women crowd into a few training occupations. In 2011, 52 percent of female trainees in Germany were focused on the ten most common occupations, compared to just 36 percent of male trainees. As 25 years ago, women are mainly to be found in service professions with job profiles such as caring, helping, selling, assisting, looking after and only rarely in production or in technical professions. There is an interesting deviation from this structure in cooking. With 32,300 male trainees, the profession of cook ranks 10th among women. Cook only ranks 18th among women, only 6900 want to make this "housewife duty" their profession. The women may be put off by the low incomes, because according to the data of the Federal Statistical Office, full-time cooks are paid only 2027 euros per month, while cooks earn 1.7 times as much with 3351 euros.