Employer trust is decisive to balancing family and a career
The question of how a career and family life can be balanced is decisive for many. Things worked out well for Bender. Her position provided the financial freedom to organise her family life with the help of a full-time housekeeper, who also looked after her children. "It is far easier to balance family life and a career with the necessary money," the mother of two believes.
After the birth of her first child, she worked just 19 hours a week as part of the company's parental leave arrangements. "This led to a marked regression in the level of my work." Her duties were far less challenging than during her full-time position.
When she became pregnant for a second time, she sought firm commitment from her superior that she could return to an unchanged management position, regardless of how much parental leave she decided to take and the working time model she ultimately opted for. "They also honoured this commitment. This pledge was very important to me and immensely reassuring during my pregnancy, hence I now adopt a similar approach with my female employees," emphasises Bender. Today she works full-time again, but also has a workstation at home and organises her family life with her 11 and 18-year-old children with the support of a part-time housekeeper.
Several key qualities proved their worth: a healthy dose of pragmatism, an ability to set priorities, organisational skills and a clear, structured mindset. The selection of subjects already proved these qualities that Bender was able to develop further during her engineering degree. "I believe that as a manager, I am very clear and decisive. But it is also very important to me how the people around me are doing. A sure sense of priorities is important in this and, most important of all: I trust in my employees. Independent employees whose expertise is supported are able to work autonomously so that the department also continues to function when I am not in the office."
She has abandoned the demand of herself and others for perfection. Overall, she believes she fills very few stereotypes: Bender evades the role models that require the few women in engineering professions to achieve more than their male peers. "I did not fall into the trap of having to push myself to the very limit or to pander to pleasantries, but have instead learned to say 'No'." However, she lacked the female role models for orientation. She is now attempting to remedy this for the next generation of female engineers as a mentor.
On her management level, she has many male colleagues with whom she gets on with very well for the most part. Men occupy all management positions above her. One possible reason for this is that you have to accept compromises and make sacrifices to attain the according management levels. "Men are more willing to compromise, as they are able to derive more personal satisfaction from an increase in power. Among the majority of women, I do not see this connection as such. In my eyes, this is one of the reasons that many women abstain from going to such great lengths for their career and management positions. The price is simply too high for them." And: "For me, it was always important to have both a fulfilling job and a family with children."
Doctorate is not essential in industry
Bender made a conscious decision not to complete a doctorate. "For an engineer in academia or research, a doctorate is by all means necessary. But those wishing to work in industry, primarily for medium-sized companies, would do well to weigh up the pros and cons."
The presence of more women in engineering professions would undoubtedly alleviate the situation. A female quota is currently on the agenda for political discussion. Bender is in favour of a female quota: "Yes, I am in favour of a female quota, though I would like one for the company management levels all the way up to the executive board. Women in supervisory boards are not visible enough in everyday working life to be able to serve as role models. Moreover, yes, I would not have a problem with being seen as the token woman. I would, of course, accept the job without batting an eyelid." Engineer Bender would still have to perform though, and to prove her worth with every new task despite the quota.
academics :: January 2014
What women earn as engineers in Germany
BY JULIANE SCHMIDT
Women are not only under-represented in positions in engineering professions. They also earn far less than their male peers do. A recent German salary review highlights the discrepancy to men's salaries, and how factors such as the company size, professional experience and a doctorate affect the salary.
Women earn less than men do - everyone knows that. And this is also the case for engineers. But how great is the discrepancy to men's salaries? "Women often earn less than men in comparable positions. The difference between their pay and that of their male peers tends to be slightly lower than it is in many other professions though," says Heike Friedrichsen from salary consultants, PersonalMarkt.
For female career entrants in engineering disciplines, the differences in salaries lies at almost 12 per cent: while the average gross annual starting salary is 41.513 Euros for women, men already earn an average of 46.439 Euros per year. The discrepancy between salaries increases the more professional experience engineers have: women then earn a quarter less than their male peers do. For the majority of women, the gross annual salary averages 47.222 Euros; for men it is significantly higher, at 59.718 Euros per year.
A doctorate is decisive to the salary
A doctorate is also decisive to the salary in the engineering professions. On average, experienced female engineers with a doctorate earn 15 to 20 per cent more than those without do. The difference is far greater for their male colleagues with professional experience though: male engineers with a doctorate earn significantly more than female engineers with the same qualification - indeed; the difference is at up to 33 per cent. Male career entrants to engineering professions with a doctorate can also look forward to a significantly higher salary than their female peers.
This leaves women with just one final wild card: the company size. Companies with up to 100 employees offer an average gross annual salary of 48.433 Euros; companies with a workforce of more than 1.000 pay female engineers with professional experience 68.409 Euros - almost 40 per cent more.
academics :: January 2014