I suppose fifty years ago, my research would have been substituted for sewing or ironing or some other domestic chore. As most mothers today know, emancipation has entailed not only having a career but having a career and all of the domestic chores our mothers did. We have it all. Or do we?
A German mother friend of mine has two kids and was pulling in 30 work hours per week as a manager in a company, but she was obviously not present for the late night meetings, dinners with clients, and conference calls at 10 pm. She was accused of slacking off and four months into the job, she was fired.
On the other extreme, I have a very close German mother friend who works about 60 hours per week, has a nanny with a car, a cleaning woman and a secretary, but her kids never see her and she beats herself up with guilt because she's never around for her children.
In both of these scenarios, my friends' husbands work full-time and they do go to the late night meetings and all the other perks of being a "team player" in today's workplace.
Still, even the non-mothers in Germany, of which there are many, aren't necessarily climbing the ranks despite being just as ambitious as their male counterparts. Women only account for 5% of the top executive positions in Germany. According to the Federal Statistics Office, 43% of women (in "west Germany") who have university degrees have no children (as compared with 25% from the former east, where there used to be state subsidized nurseries for working moms).
It's no wonder that there is a debate here about establishing a quota for women employees in leading positions in Germany. The Minister of Labor, Ursula von der Leyen, (who has seven kids herself) says there ought to be a quota for women. Her opponents say its not constitutional and all of the other contra arguments familiar with quotas (unqualified people getting hired, discriminating against men, etc. We've seen all of this in the USA with affirmative action).
The question is, can we expect leadership in Germany's companies to change if it's not mandated?
For example, in my first friend's case, would company culture change if it was mandated? Why, for example, can't companies have more lunch appointments with clients as opposed to dinners? Can't there be more skyping so that mothers can still work from home after hours? Why isn't there more job sharing in Germany?
My friend was fired by a woman executive with no children who said, "I doubted you'd be able to do in six hours what most people do in 8." In other words, my friend never really had a chance.