"In times of difficulty, women are ever more important"

08.03.2021 - At an event for the ACA's staff members, ACA President Margit Kraker talked about the International Women's Day, equality and gender roles

The International Women’s Day 2021 is taking place under considerably changed framework conditions. We celebrate it virtually. There is extensive media coverage of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. 

Is it now even appropriate to engage in a fundamental discussion on the role of women? Don’t we have enough other problems? Shouldn’t we first fight the pandemic and rebuild the economy?  

Are women’s issues thus a luxury problem when it comes to saving livelihoods? My answer is a clear no.

First of all:

Whenever difficulties arise and rapid, unbureaucratic support is needed, women are called to step up. Be it in old-age care, health care, childcare, in the supermarkets or in one’s own home. Women are the first to help. In doing so, they put their own interests aside. The discussion on fair payment is postponed until later; likewise the debate on adequate childcare. In times of a crisis, we can count on women! After a crisis, this is often taken for granted. I would be pleasantly surprised if this were different after the pandemic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am firmly convinced that women often lack assertiveness in their demands and can therefore easily be divided. To be honest, we don’t need men to support the demands of women. Instead, women must act more in unison. Without women, nothing would work in our society, and I often have the impression that this fact is never harnessed. Hence, the true strength of women would eventually become visible.

Women have always succeeded when they could fight for concrete rights: the right to vote, the right to divorce, equality in public service. However, they always gave in when it came to actually changing disagreeable social realities: all-day schools, wage transparency, the significance of women-specific sectors, the endowing of women’s positions with actual power, the networking of women. Feminism is quite frequently dismissed as unsympathetic: one should rather focus on human rights in general. And again, women’s issues become only one among many points on the agenda.

Hence my appeal: 

Women must have the courage to openly voice their demands – including their wage demands in businesses –, they have to stand shoulder to shoulder in lobbying for all-day schools and an old-age care reform and they must involve the men in household chores and family work. The qualifications of women show compellingly that women can take on any function equally, but the part-time trap too often hinders women in tapping into career and earning opportunities. We need a new awareness of a full equality of women, which does not value women with unfair means.

In the digital realm, the advantages of men are increasingly diminishing. Nevertheless we will have to first ascertain the impact of telework on gender roles. I venture to presume that telework is considerably more difficult for women than for men because the actual household work is  transferred even more markedly to women. Furthermore, it is also important to render women visible in the workplace in order to get them out of the domestic routine and to avoid any new setbacks.

The International Women's Day thus has an even greater legitimacy if we want to get women out of the family trap especially now and strengthen their self-confidence for the equal status of women in work and society. Such a self-confidence is created by raising awareness of equality, which must be self-evident at all levels and in all social groups. Only then will a change of attitude towards women occur.

Women have caught up strongly at the ACA. With 156 female staff members, the share of women is at some 51 per cent, and the trend is upwards. Also as regards the leadership functions in the ACA’s divisions, women and men are equally represented.

In the ACA's audit service, the number of female auditors has tripled since 1996. The number of female heads of department is steadily increasing. But what can we make of this positive development? Where can we still improve?

  • Firstly, I attach great importance to a good cohesion among women in the ACA. From my experience – and without wanting to discriminate against the many qualified men – they are among the most highly qualified performers in the ACA. And in the ACA, both women and men have the opportunity to balance their work and personal lives well, especially with small children. I am very pleased that also the men in the ACA often take on their family responsibilities.

  • Secondly, we, in our capacity as members of the ACA, have the opportunity to contribute, via our audit activities, to raising social awareness with regard to the equality of women, be it in the General Income Report or in reports that address, for example, gender aspects in tax law, labour market policies or education. As the President of the ACA, I would wish for the ACA to perceive itself as a driving force for women’s equality in all audit areas and to be able to point to some existing injustices, such as in the area of funding.

In this spirit I wish us all a good cooperation for the benefit of women. I should also recall that audit is female and would like to thank the mixed equality team for this initiative!