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Angela Merkel was the first woman ever to become German chancellor and spent 16 years in office. But women remain underrepresented in the Bundestag – and German politics, in general. Why is that?
Women frequently experience prejudice and sexist discrimination. After Eliza Diekmann was elected mayor of the west German town of Coesfeld last year, people criticized her for being too young and inexperienced. “Some people said I was only elected because I looked so pretty on the posters,” according to Diekmann. The 34-year-old independent candidate was also asked why she had gone ahead and had children if she was going to take over that kind of position.
Women are underrepresented in all areas of German politics. At present, 14 of the country’s 16 state premiers are men. Only nine percent of German mayors are women. In the German parliament the proportion of women has even dropped in comparison to the previous legislature period – from 36.5 to 31.4 percent.
Silke Laskowski, professor of public law, international law and European law at the University of Kassel, says the disparity is systemic and not anything to do with the behavior of individual women. The system is tailored to men. “It is internal structures that are hindering women,” Laskowski says.
Is a quota required? Former CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was unable to establish one in Angela Merkel’s conservative party: “Everything really functions according to quotas in a mainstream party like the CDU. There are checks to ensure there are a mix of people of different faiths, employees and entrepreneurs. That is never a problem except where women are concerned.” By contrast, 54 percent of the members of parliament representing the Left Party in the Bundestag are women – the result of a quota. For Left Party politician Anne Helm the quota remains important: “In my party, too, it is frequently the case that women are often more reserved when it comes to competing and that is why it is still necessary to have instruments that consciously work to counteract this tendency.”
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