Economy & Politics

Parties in crisis – where are the women?

The proportion of female members of the Bundestag is less than a third.imago images / Future Image

The mega-election year 2021 awaits with six state elections and one federal election. One of the defining themes of the election campaign must be equality between women. Depending on who takes over the party chairmanship of the CDU / CSU, they will show their colors and focus on women or leave it alone. The women ran away from the FDP, the election prognoses are also bad and the top tandem of the SPD, as feared, has remained colorless. Only the Left and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen have recognized the signs of the times in terms of the number of women MPs in the Bundestag.

Overall, however, with regard to the equal occupation of offices, a situation similar to that in the boardrooms of companies is evident in the Bundestag: there is a lot of catching up to do. However, the lack of equality in politics begins in the regional league. Anyone who, as a party in local politics, does not ensure that women hold political offices, is then responsible for the lack of top positions in the Bundestag. Not even every tenth town hall is ruled by a woman. Their share is only nine percent and has therefore stagnated at a low level for years, according to the latest study by EAF Berlin from 2020. In the German Bundestag, the share of women at the end of 2019 was just 31.2 percent (221 of 709 MPs) – by real So we are a long way from parity in politics too.

As a psychologist, I therefore ask myself what is the topic behind the actual topic of equality. Since autumn 2020 I have been researching hidden career resistance of women together with a team of female experts in order to find out what, apart from the famous glass ceiling, makes women turn on the different career paths.

Glass ceiling or displeasure among women?

Our study “Successful women in German management – a taboo?” Has shown that ambitious women shy away from career paths in the top echelons and often give up their advancement plans and wishes at an early stage.

A central result of the investigation are the prevailing fear-violence mechanisms, which are camouflaged in a “business as usal” robe. They show up in the form of latent or open aggression from male, but also female superiors. Well-intentioned programs to promote women are of little help. Where do you want to encourage women to go? You don’t want them in the boardrooms and senior management positions of too many companies. In addition, there are no real objectives of what one (s) want to do with sponsored women, often just pure alibi. It seems that programs support the myth of the shortage of women. According to the motto: We need a program so that we can make them – women – afloat because they are not right as they are.

Parties to the test

The question in the election year 2021 will therefore be the following, especially for our male politicians: who do we want to be and who do we stand up for?

As a party, do I want to make politics for a very specific clientele, with loud, sometimes highly aggressive threatening gestures, “beer tent manner”, narcissistic-loving power and intrigue, or is it about leading this society into a new decade with real respect for those who think differently, with positive persistence and team player qualities?

With regard to women in leadership positions – whether in business or politics – one thing is clear: You do not win the majority by constantly wanting to wage war, even if it is just a communicative war, always paying attention to the position between attack and defense. In addition, they cannot be won by systematically excluding women from top management positions. Our study has shown that women are won over for career positions

  1. honest and open communication across hierarchical levels: It is precisely here that the entire party landscape in Germany seems to be weakening, especially due to a deliberate lack of transparency. Anyone who shows weaknesses and says openly what they think is quickly sidelined – either in their own party, with the opposing party or with the voters. How much truth can a people tolerate and how much truth do they actually want? Our study has shown that women, if they do not allow themselves to be corrupted by the system and adapt, have an extremely high value system. This honors women, makes them credible and particularly eligible for election, but at the same time it is also their greatest hurdle to reach for power. On the one hand, women are very aware of what is happening behind the scenes and refuse to participate in “crooked” deals. On the other hand, they set the bar for expectations of themselves incredibly high. This often brings competent women to give in. The study has shown that women want to achieve the best possible result in the cause and for the people together with others. Chasing posts is not their thing.
    My tip to politicians: Advertise for women, approach them, not half-heartedly because it is in your party program, but because you really mean it. Women feel the difference between sham maneuvers and honesty very precisely.
  2. Support and encouragement for yourself and for others: Who in politics actually strengthens the back of a potential competitor in general or even the back of women? The system is not designed to bring the best together to get the best results. Coalitions not only on a political level, but also on a personal level are usually only temporary: If the benefits no longer apply, the coalition disintegrates. Our study has shown that women are looking for encouragement and support. But who should support women for what? With this question alone, women run the risk of being interpreted as “beings” with a lack of resilience and assertiveness.
    My tip to politicians: If more women really want to lead, people who openly or express themselves disrespectfully or negatively towards women in private are a disruptive variable. The party’s line must be that women are wanted, and behaviors and communication patterns must be adapted accordingly.
  3. the waiver of hereditary farm politics and clergy: Analogous to the corporate world, politics is also gradually building up its successors – lateral entrants with no matter how good ideas have no chance if they are not in a rope team and have not served themselves for decades. This means that only those people who are similar in terms of values ​​and ideologies will be caught up. And since the majority of the parties are led by “brothers in spirit”, brothers and not sisters are brought up. In my opinion, the fact that only a few women have made it into German politics speaks for the outstanding competence, perseverance and probably enormous frustration tolerance and psychological strength of these women. However, those who actually strive for a political career as an outsider and then as a woman usually have bad cards.
    My tip to politicians: women need opportunities and these are open, permeable systems in which they feel comfortable. Completed men’s circles do not fall under this category.

The conclusion: With real content and less power skirmishes

According to the statements of our study participants, women are believed to be unable to assert themselves with dominance and power. They think in a consensus-oriented, flat hierarchical manner, and rarely tend to want to bathe their personality in the glory of power. All of this seems to be detrimental to them, especially in politics. Women are concerned with content: if they can enforce it with power, fine, but power for the sake of power alone does not seem to be an option for women. Which brings us to the core problem: Political systems produce people to a special degree who align their personal importance to power and positions and less to the question of whether they are really the best person for the task. They first define themselves through their power status and only then does the content come.

From a psychological point of view, it is to be hoped that more men and women achieve a realistic ability to self-reflect and achieve a good balance between ego and task. However, this is a process that requires a high degree of examination of one’s own personality patterns, resistance and defensive attitudes. If you want to get started in parties to get women, you have to start with yourself. Who do I want to be, ego or task, or both? And if so, for whom do I want to be? That alone would increase the proportion of women in politics. Angela Merkel has impressively shown how this can be done. The bar is high – not so much for women, but across parties, especially for men.


Martina Lackner, In 2019, the psychologist, author and entrepreneur joined forces in a team of four with experts in the fields of female identity and advancement of women, leadership development, psychology as well as systemic family and psychotherapy to research the topic of career barriers for women.


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