E. Wijsman wijsman at
Mon Oct 13 10:50:32 EST 1997

On 13 Oct 1997, Sylvia Becker wrote:

> so, let's throw another German in the debate.  Yes, I agree with what Sabine
> has said, essentially all of it.  What I want to add is that as a result it
> is not only the employers (men) looking down on a working woman but also the
> women.  I am working in Munich and living in the countryside.  The fact that
> I didn't stay at home when the first child arrived along with the fact 
> that my husband and I have different names has certainly set our family
> apart from the others.  Things are gradually improving - the financial
> situation for most families in Germany is such that the woman will at least
> have to work part time.  However, working if you NEED THE MONEY is accepted.
> Working because you want to PURSUE A CAREER is bloody selfish of a mother!
> At least that's the message one seems to get.  In fact, my own brother
> despises me for what I am doing - his wife, a fully trained medical doctor,
> is a stay at home mum.  Now, I would consider that their choice and nobody
> else's business but they seem to consider my choice their business of rather
> their choice to be the gospel!
> Also, the means taken to help families with the "extended two body problem",
> i.e. deal with child care and try and allow the spouse to find a job in the
> same area are zilch!  It seems to be better in industry but in the
> universities things are dire!  In my particular case, I am expected to work
> somewhere else if I want more funding through the major grant giving body,
> they specifically said that they won't fund me any longer if I stay in
> Munich - despite raving referee reports concerning the scientific aspects of
> my proposals.  My husband has a permanent job at the university in Munich
> and we have two small children.  No way can I move and work somewhere else
> (on a two year job soft money basis).  So far, my boss is pulling me through
> with opening up unexpected sources of money though no proper job but I get 
> the impression that in the end it is regarded as funding my hobby ( with 
> the added bonus that if I succeed in my efforts I will be the first woman 
> at this faculty to get the degree called Habilitation which you need in 
> Germany to become a professor - being the boss of such a person may be one 
> of my boss's incentives in his efforts though this may be unfair).  The 
> longer this goes on the more bitter I get.  Swimming against the stream 
> all the time with very little help is tiring.
>   Are you sure it's only a difference of 10-20 years compared to the US?

No.  It sounds more like 40 years compared to the US.  I was in grad
school 20 years ago at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and things were
already quickly moving up by then.  20 years ago there were a number of
young, female faculty who were joining the faculty in various departments
in the school (Janet Mertz, included) and other (primarily older male)
faculty were really happy to have attracted these new talents.  Even 20
years ago there was some accomodation for dual careers, in that generally
some sort of position could be found for the spouse (sometimes in one of
the neighboring branch campuses).  Things like childcare, extended store
hours, etc., even 20 years ago in the US were ahead of what it sounds to
be like today in Germany, and I also can't say as I ran into the attitude
that women in grad school were pursuing what amounts to a hobby. 

Germany seems to be essentially a special case, among European countries,
in how slowly the social climate changes to accomodate women. Maybe
Switzerland is similar?  I think the Netherlands is in between - ahead of
Germany, but behind the Scandianvian countries, France, and other
countries which have realized that flexible personal choices are in
everyones best interest.  Given that other European countries, in addition
to the US, have managed to make *significant* progress on these issues in 
the past 30 years, it seems to me that there are no good excuses for
Germany's distinct lag.  Eventually it is going to hurt the country - the
best talents will go elsewhere.

Ellen M. Wijsman			Express mail address:
Research Professor			1914 N 34th St., suite 209
Div. of Medical Genetics and		Seattle, WA   98103
Dept. Biostatistics 			(Note:  do not mention the
BOX 357720, University of Washington 	 Univ. of Washington, and
Seattle, WA   98195-7720		 use this address only for	
phone:  (206) 543-8987			 express mail)
fax:    (206) 616-1973			email:  wijsman at

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