A Comparison of Job Opportunities for Women in Germany and the UK

Bachelor Thesis, 2013

50 Pages, Grade: First Class


Table of Contents





1.1 Background
1.2 Aims, Research Question and Objectives
1.3 Scope

2.1 History
2.2 Law
2.2.1 Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act.
2.2.2 Parental Leave and Parents Money
2.3 Equality
2.4 Politics
2.5 Human Resources
2.5.1 The 'Glass Ceiling’.
2.5.2 The 'LeakyPipeline'.
2.5.3 The 'StickyFloor'
2.5.4 The 'Opt-OutRevolution'.
2.5.5 'Work-Life Balance’and 'Work-Life Conflict’.
2.5.6 The 'Maternal Wall'

3.1 Research Families
3.1.1 Primary andSecondaryData
3.1.2 Qualitative and Quantitative Data
3.2 Key Concepts
3.2.1 Validity
3.2.2 Generalisability
3.2.3 Reliability
3.2.4 Triangulation
3.3 Ethical Principles

4.1 Main Sources Used For This Dissertation
4.2 Equality in Employment - Gender Gaps in Germany andthe UK
4.2.1 EconomicParticipation and Opportunity Labour Force Participation Wage Gap Pensions Gap Occupational Segregation
4.2.2 Differences in Types ofWork Women in Management and on Boards Part-time Work and Unpaid Work
4.3 Legal and non-legal constraints/barriers
4.3.1 Corporate Culture and EmployerPolicies
4.3.2 Motherhood and the Re-Entry into Employment
4.3.3 Work-Life Conflict and Childcare
4.3.4 (Lack of] Flexible Work Solutions
4.4 Legal and Non-Legal Provisions for Women
4.4.1 Reducing OccupationalSegregation
4.4.2 Changing Corporate Cultures & Reducing Stereotyping
4.4.3 Introduction ofQuotas.
4.4.4 Introduction ofParental Leave and Parents Money
4.4.5 Creating Awareness
4.4.6 Childcare & Flexible Working Arrangements
4.4.7 Measures against Pay Discrimination

5.1 Why has Gender Equality not been achieved?
5.2 Which Country offers more Gender Equality and Hence Better Opportunities for Women?
5.3 How Will Gender Equality Develop in the Future?


IV. List of Figures

Figure 1: Woman Representation in Corporate Boards in 2010

Figure 2: Woman Representation in Executive Committees of Corporations in 2010

Figure 3: Overall Gender Equality in Germany and the UK

Figure 4: Development of Labour Force Participation in Germany and the UK

Figure 5: Wage Gap in Germany and the UK

Figure 6: Pensions Gap in Germany and the UK

Figure 7: Female Participation in Different Occupational Sectors

Figure 8: Subject Segregation While Studying

Figure 9: Minutes Devoted to Unpaid Work per Day by Gender

Figure 10: Barriers for Women

Figure 11: Is the UK the Most Expensive Place for Childcare?

Figure 12: Parental Leave in Weeks

I. Student Declaration



I hereby declare that:

This project is my own work. I have acknowledged material from the work of other people and I have clearly marked and given references to all quotations; and

I permit the lodging of a copy of this project in the College Library, which shall be made available for the academic use of staff and students

Signed (student) Date

II. Abstract

Rieke Hinrichs 2013


The purpose of this project was to analyse to what extent gender equality has been achieved, which barriers still exist in female employment and to evaluate opportunities for women in the UK in comparison to those in Germany. The author reviewed a wide array of sources, such as studies, laws and articles, but the main analysis was done on the basis of extensive data that has been collected by the OECD and the World Economic Forum. Based on those findings, gender gaps concerning labour force participation, occupational sectors and types of work as well as wages and pensions were identified for both countries. More specifically this paper provides information on the main barriers for women in employment, the most important of which are male­dominated corporate cultures and discrimination. Especially mothers experience barriers, like the lack of affordable childcare, insufficient flexible working options, or the fact that people who use those are disadvantaged as well as unequal contribution of unpaid work and childcare, despite laws that allow fathers to participate more in family life. During the whole project, the applicability of theories such as the ‘Glass Ceiling’, the ‘Sticky Floor’ or the ‘Opt-Out Revolution’ has been tested in order to identify reasons for inequality. Furthermore, measures which have already been taken against the existing barriers were described, and some that could be taken in the future were suggested. Differences between conditions for women in Germany and the UK have been analysed, compared and evaluated, with the result that the UK offers slightly better chances, but both countries achieve quite different results in particular categories. Depending on which aspects a woman puts emphasis on, this thesis can help to decide which country is best to live and raise a family in.

1. Introduction

Over and over you see headlines like ‘Gender pay gap larger than expected’ (Gainsbury & Cadman, 2012 [Online]), ‘Europe’s women make slow boardroom progress’ (Barber, 2012 [Online]), ‘Bosses are still rejecting highly qualified women because they fear they will leave to have children’ (Woods, 2010 [Online]), ‘Glass ceiling: compulsory quotas are the way forward, finds a poll of female leaders’ (Woods, 2012a [Online]) and so forth.

As a female management, business and administration student, these headlines hover over any career and private plans and make one always bear in mind concerns like: What is possible for a woman to achieve, which obstacles will be put into your way and how can you be successful and have a fulfilled private life?

This is why the researcher decided to engage herself in studying this topic, which is also a very important issue for business in the 21st century.

1.1 Background

Both in Germany and the UK it is presumed that women do not have the same opportunities as men and are not treated equally in their professional life. There are gender gaps concerning labour force participation, occupational sectors and types of work, but especially regarding wages and pensions. (OECD, 2012b [online]) Women experience barriers in employment, which can be based on different theories, some of them regarding external influences and others women themselves as the problem. (Smith et al., 2012, pp.436-444) However, there are provisions that have been fixed legally and also measures that are implemented by companies themselves in order to achieve a higher integration of women. Even if both countries in question are part of the European Union, those barriers and provisions show considerable differences, offering better opportunities in one or the other country in particular categories.

1.2 Aims, Research Question and Objectives

The purpose of the project was to investigate the actual opportunities and barriers women face on the British job market in comparison to the German job market. Furthermore, the development of female employability and careers was analysed and the current role of women in business as well as the importance of female manpower in the future were assessed.

The aim of this paper was to reveal disadvantages as well as progress and prospects for women in jobs and to assess if there are realistic chances to combine career and family successfully. An evaluation was undertaken of how far the development of gender equality in jobs has come in both countries.

Therefore, the following research question has been established:

To what extent are there differences in gender equality - especially regarding job and advancement opportunities for women - in Germany and the UK?

The sub-division into four objectives helped to answer the research question:

I. To examine the development of women’s employability and integration in businesses in the UK and Germany.
II. To identify and evaluate legal and non-legal provisions and constraints for women in jobs and seeking jobs in the UK and Germany.
III. To identify and evaluate attitudes and perceptions concerning women in business.
IV. To evaluate gender equality and conclude which country offers better opportunities for women.

1.3 Scope

The study had to be narrowed down to a manageable size, which is why the researcher decided to solely focus on women in business. Other relevant and closely related topics which often emerged during the research are gender divides in the public domain, entrepreneurship and politics. Those topics are suggested to be further examined in future research. Furthermore not been considered were differences between male and female management or leadership styles and qualities, as well as the question if women are ‘of the right material’ to be in top positions of companies. There are also parts of the project which could have been much more comprehensive, such as the history of female employment and laws that affected women and gender equality. Due to limitations of the maximum word count and the predefined time, it had, however, to be concentrated on the most significant historical incidents since industrialisation and laws that are exclusively related to employment.

2. Literature Review

The project is underpinned by different theories and concepts, which are explained below.

2.1 History

The historical development of women’s employability was investigated, because this is crucial in order to explain their current role in the business world.

In ‘Women, Work & Family’ (1978) Tilly and Scott describe the development of female employment using industrialisation as a starting point - as women have got more and more jobs outside their households since then. Beginning in manufacturing and production, (p.63) their employment field soon shifted to clerical work with jobs like typists or secretaries, while men were required in the upcoming heavy industry and mass production in the early twentieth century. (p.149) With the emerging tertiary sector, more and more jobs were given to unmarried women, whereas wives still devoted their life exclusively to childcare and household management. (p.177)

The two world wars were especially important episodes for women. In World War I, women took over a lot of ‘essential work in order to release men to go into the armed forces’. (Harris, 2011 [Online]) In the course of World War II, women in the UK were introduced to many new jobs and additionally to their employment in ‘textiles, clothing, light engineering, and part-time work’, they were required in fields like welding and electrical engineering. They had to take part in labour exchange and to serve in the Women’s Land Army, Women’s Services and munitions work. In Germany simply ‘everyone worked’ both for the military and industry. (Cardinali, 2002, pp.124,125) During and after World War II, both in the UK and in Germany more women were working than ever before. (Meinhard, 2009 [Online])

After both wars, however, women often stopped working. Many work contracts had just been designed ‘for the duration of the war’ and there were also other measures used to force women back from their jobs. In Great Britain, for example, day nurseries were shut so that mothers had no chance to work anymore and it was spread that it was not decent for women to work because those who did would ‘take’ the jobs from men. (Bourke, 2011 [online])

In Germany, women accomplished very hard work in the course of all the necessary clearing work. They became known as ‘Trümmerfrauen’, which can be translated with ‘rubble women’, the ones, who built Germany up again. This gave them self-confidence in their future fight for their rights. (Hähnel & Pawlak [n.d.] [online]) In the 1950s and 60s, however, there can be seen huge differences between the DDR and West Germany. While the eastern part of the country provided many child care options which allowed women to work, the political ideal in Western Germany went back to a woman as a caring mother of many children and a housewife who did not work. (Hähnel & Pawlak [n.d.] [online])

According to Tilly & Scott, women were mostly employed in ‘white-collar clerical jobs’ after the war and often continued to work after they got married. (1978, pp.215,224) They were still paid less than men, since they were regarded as ‘secondary wage earners’. It was usual for women not to work when their children were young, but since they had fewer and fewer children, these times became shorter. (Tilly & Scott, 1978, p.224) From the 1950s, more and more laws were enacted that were supposed to support women in jobs, especially during pregnancy or when having small children, (Meinhard, 2009 [online]; Lambert, [n.d.] [online]) up to the most recent laws which make it possible for fathers to stay at home with their babies, while the mothers keep working.

Those few decisive steps in the history of women in jobs that are named above provide an overview of how sharply the roles of women and men have changed from industrialisation until today.

A further concept is the examination and comparison of German and British law concerning protection and support of women. In the project, the researcher investigated the differences between the laws in both countries and analysed their impacts on women.

2.2.1 Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination Act

In 1970, the UK parliament passed the ‘Equal Pay Act’ (The National Archive, 1970 [online]), which prohibited the discrimination of women with regards to pay and certain conditions in the work place and came into force in 1975. At the same time, the ‘Sex Discrimination Act’ was brought into force, which ‘introduced broad protection against direct and indirect discrimination in employment’. (Smith & Thomas, 2008 p.244 [online]) In Germany there has never been an act for equal pay. In 2011, a similar law was suggested by the Social Democratic Party, who wanted companies with more than 15 employees to publish their payment structure and introduce fines for firms that do not comply. However, such a law has not been passed up to now. (Märkische Oberzeitung, 2011 [online]) A comprehensive ‘General Act of Equal Treatment’ (the AGG) was just brought into force in 2006, which includes direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment. (Merkel-Günther et al., 2006 [online]) It replaces different individual guidelines that had been introduced in the years before. The ‘AGG’ was feared by the industry, who expected a wave of lawsuits by discriminated women. (Dernbach, 2008 [online]) The strong lobby of the German industry might be one of the reasons why such a law has not been introduced until a few years ago.

In the UK there was another Equality Act in 2010, which had particular effects on the ‘traditional job interview process’ in order to exclude discrimination in the selection of employees. (Barber, 2010b [online]) All in all, European law has great impact on the discrimination laws of both countries. (Smith & Thomas, 2008 [online] p.245)

2.2.2 Parental Leave and Parents Money

Another important law is the law for parental leave and parents money, which has been in force in Germany since 2007 and is called ‘Bundeselterngeld- und Elternzeitgesetz’ (‘BEEG’). Mother and father of the child can each take parental leave of 3 years maximum. At the most, 14 months are paid, which both parents can split among themselves as they like (while each parent has to take 2 months minimum). Mother and father of the child can also take parental leave at the same time and they can choose between not working at all during that time, or working up to 30 hours. There is dismissal protection during the time of the leave and employees have the right to get back their job or an equivalent job afterwards. (Bundesministerium der Justiz, 2012 [online] pp.9-11) From two weeks before birth until 8 weeks after, mothers receive 100 per cent of their former wage. (Hausmann et al. (2012) [online] p.72) The parents money that follows after this period is 67 per cent of the last salary, with a minimum of 300 € and a maximum of 1800 € a month. (Bundesministerium der Justiz, 2012 [online] p.2)

In Great Britain, maternity leave is just up to 52 weeks, which is about one year. The payment system is more complex than in Germany and just 39 weeks are paid leave. This is less than 10 months, compared to 14 months in Germany. Women receive 90 per cent of their average earnings in the first 6 weeks and £135.45 or 90 per cent of the AWE (whichever is lower) for the other 66 weeks (weekly pay). Women are just entitled to maternity pay under certain circumstances like having worked at their employer for at least 26 weeks etc. If a woman is not entitled, she might be entitled to ‘Maternity Allowance’, which immediately starts with £135.45 or 90% of the AWE and can also be 39 weeks. (Information Department Citizens Advice, 2012 [online]) Fathers in the UK have an ‘Ordinary Paternity Leave’ of 1-2 weeks. ‘Additional Paternity Leave Regulations’ were enacted in 2010, which allow fathers of babies born after 3 April 2011 to take up to 26 weeks of ‘Additional Paternity Leave’ while the baby is between 20 weeks and one year old. It is compulsory that the mother has returned to work. The leave is paid if the mother had been entitled to it for the same period. (Woods, 2011 [online])

Equality regarding the workplace can be defined as:

[...] treating everyone the same, regardless of their differences. Whether the difference is a person's age, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or physical disability, he is entitled to be held in the same esteem as any of his coworkers. (Fox, [n.d.] [online])

In the 21st century, women are still disadvantaged in jobs both in Germany and the UK. Among other things, a strong indicator for this is the fact that women are still paid less than men. The German journal ‘Der Spiegel’ wrote that according to a study of the OECD, ‘in no other European country, the gender pay gap is as high as in Germany’. (Der Spiegel, 2012 [online]) Women in full-time employment earn on average 21.6 per cent less than men in Germany, the UK is in the second last place, with 19.8 per cent. The OECD average is 15.9 per cent and the country with the smallest gender gap is Norway, with just 8.7 per cent. (OECD, 2012 [online])

Furthermore, despite the fact that women study faster than men, that they have better marks and that especially mothers are very good at time management, (Sueddeutsche, 2009 [online]) women are seldom members of boards (as can be seen in the bar chart below) or executive committees and therewith of business elites, like the study con­ducted by McKinsey in 2010 showed.

In 2010, women are still underrepresented in boards of corporations, although improvement has been seen in some countries

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1, McKinsey, 2010 [ online]

However, this topic is interconnected with politics, as it can be seen under 2.4.

Every now and then, both in the UK and in Germany there are discussions of whether a female quota for companies or the boards of those should be laid down by the law or not. In Great Britain, ‘former minister Lord Davies [was] urging FTSE 100 companies to sign up to a voluntary target of 25 % female board representation by 2015’, but 64 per cent of those enterprises are ‘fundamentally opposed’ to such a quota. (HR Editorial, 2011 [online]) However, one year after Lord Davie’s claim for more women on boards, the figures had risen recognisably: Women accounted for 15.6 per cent of all directorships in 2012, compared to just 12.5 per cent one year before. So, even without a law, the UK could improve their figures during the last year, and this development is expected to continue. (Woods, 2012b [online])

In Germany, the labour minister and the minister for family affairs (both female) are disputing the question: voluntary or mandatory female quota? The labour minister’s idea is a flexible quota, which means that companies can set their own goals concerning the integration of women especially in high positions. (Der Spiegel, 2012a [online]) Due to Germany’s very bad figures - in 2010, for instance, there was just a 2 per cent female representation in executive committees of corporations, compared to 14 per cent in the UK as can be seen below (McKinsey, 2010 [online] p.3) - there are vivid discussions, but up to now no decisions have been made.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2, McKinsey, 2010 [ online]

Politics can influence discrimination and disadvantages of minorities and women by affirmative action. Examples for those are quotas, disclosure of salary discrepancies and positive discrimination during recruitment. In the project, the researcher examined the political directions in which the UK and Germany are heading concerning women in jobs and careers - especially in the light of demographic change and the following labour shortage - and evaluated their impacts on society.

Many information for the project were taken from HR magazines or textbooks. The dissertation is also based on different HR concepts, which will be explained in more detail in the following.

2.5.1 The ‘Glass Ceiling’

The ‘Glass Ceiling’ became famous in 1986 after being described by Hymowitz and Schellhardt in the Wall Street Journal. The metaphor describes the ‘unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.’ (Cotter et al., 2001, p.656 [online]) Furthermore, the theory implies that ‘the obstacles women face relative to men become greater as they move up the hierarchy. ’ (Baxter & Wright, 2000 [online]) The ‘Harvard Business Review’ conducted a study investigating if women are less often promoted than men (Ibarra, Carter & Silva, 2010 [online]), which was, among other sources analysed in the project.

2.5.2 The ‘Leaky Pipeline’

The ‘Leaky Pipeline’ theory also tries to explain the lack of women in high positions. The pipeline stands metaphorically for the years a person spends in a company before being promoted. To advance to a CEO, for instance, it takes 20-35 years, which often are not reached by a woman, due to different reasons (e.g. not enough will power of women to get through the pipeline, not enough support for women in the pipeline, etc.). (Miller, 2009 [online]) However, ‘Glass Ceiling’ and ‘Leaky Pipeline’ concentrate on professional jobs and high positions that just account for a pretty small percentage of the total workforce.

2.5.3 The ‘Sticky Floor’

Another theory is the existence of a ‘Sticky Floor’, which ‘crowds these workers [women] into the very worst jobs in society’. (Noble, 1992 [online]) With the choice of their jobs, women often prevent themselves from being well-paid or achieving high positions. Especially part-time jobs or ‘mini-jobs’ have negative influences on career chances and the female role in business as they make them ‘second class’ workers. (Der Spiegel, 2010 [online])

2.5.4 The ‘Opt-Out Revolution’

The different theories show that there are highly qualified women on the one hand, who try but do not get as good jobs as their male pendants, and on the other hand, there are women, who do not even try to compete with men, stay at home as housewives or choose low-paid jobs and therewith accept their exclusion from work life or careers. This has also been called ‘Opt-Out Revolution’ by Belkin (2003). (cited by Smith et al. 2012 [online] p.442) This theory entails that women do not really want high positions and leave prestigious jobs as they consider it as more important to raise their children.

2.5.5 ‘Work-Life Balance’ and ‘Work-Life Conflict’

Another important concept of Human Resources is ‘Work-Life Balance’ or ‘Work-Life Conflict’. Women with children often ‘find that the demands and requirements of work conflict with family responsibilities’. This includes the fact that large numbers of women ‘take on the family household responsibilities that include caring for children regardless of the extent of their career or earnings’. A metaphor that is used to describe this phenomenon is the ‘second shift’, which means the unpaid labour in household and childcare that women do beside their regular job. (Hochschild, 1989 cited by Smith et al. 2012 [online] p.441) Smith et al. also list several studies that were conducted in different countries and found strong evidence for the fact that working mothers have ‘greater workloads than men’.

2.5.6 The ‘Maternal Wall’

A metaphor which is frequently used to describe the negative effects of breaks from work women take to have children, is the ‘Maternal Wall’. (Crosby et al. 2004, cited by Smith et al. 2012 [online] p.441) The question of how far motherhood hinders women’s careers, and to what extent their professional advancement is affected by having children was also investigated.

Initial results showed that there are multiple barriers for women in jobs, especially for women who aspire high positions. While some theories are based on discrimination against women, like the ‘Glass Ceiling’, others see the reasons for women being excluded from large parts of the business world in the women’s characteristics and decisions themselves (for example the ‘Opt-Out Revolution’/ An investigation and evaluation of those theories was undertaken in the main part of the project.

3. Methodology

The researcher has chosen a research strategy that is appropriate both for her topic and for her limitation to small-scale and low budget research. According to Denscombe (2010, p.4), there are three key questions which should be regarded in the selection of a strategy:

‘Is it suitable?’

‘Is it feasible?’

‘Is it ethical?’

Those questions were borne in mind in the decision for a research strategy. In the following paragraphs the researcher provides reasons for the choice of her methods.

3.1 Research Families

3.1.1 Primary and Secondary Data

A lot of research has already been done on the topic the researcher decided to investigate. Therefore, a lot of secondary data is available, for instance in newspapers, journals (like the ‘Harvard Business Review’, ‘HrMagazin’, etc.), books (like ‘Women, Work & Family’), studies or DVDs, some of which appear in the Literature Review. Such secondary data delivers reliable and highly diverse information that have been evaluated, compared or disproved by the researcher.

The advantages of secondary data are ‘fewer resource requirements’ like time and money and ‘in addition, they are likely to be higher-quality data’ than self-provided data. (Saunders, 2009, p.268) Especially, if ‘regional or international comparisons’ are required, like it was in the researcher’s project, secondary data is very useful. Furthermore, ‘secondary data generally provide a source of data that is both permanent and available in a form that may be checked relatively easily by others. ’ (Denscombe cited by Saunders, 2009, p.269)

However, there are also disadvantages of secondary data. If you collect it from the Internet, for instance, you have to be very careful which source to use.


Excerpt out of 50 pages


A Comparison of Job Opportunities for Women in Germany and the UK
New College Durham  (New College Durham/ Leeds Metropolitan University)
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comparison, opportunities, women, germany
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Rieke Hinrichs (Author), 2013, A Comparison of Job Opportunities for Women in Germany and the UK, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/274677


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