Gender Equality in Employment
Interview with Stephanie Kürsten-Camara –Policy Officer in charge of implementing the European Charter for Equality at the Women’s Department at the City of Frankfurt am Main
“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” This African saying was the title of the invitation to participate in three workshops from May to October 2014 for the participatory planning process of the Action Plan for Gender Equality, sent to representatives of Frankfurt am Main’s economic, administrative, civil, political, and scientific communities.
The workshops focused on the following topics:
Well-Informed career choice – break stereotypes on how are young people making career choices and life planning
Women in leadership
Labour Force and unemployment – in relation to this topic a study was carried out on women’s challenges and chances
Work and Life – how to value “gaps” in your career when this is negatively seen by the labor market and how to bring together different generations
In order to “spread the word” the Women’s department asked participants if they had suggestions on other potential participants that they would invite, this created a “snow-ball effect”.
A platform for exchange:
The idea of organizing the workshops was to provide a platform for exchange for a wide-range of stakeholders to create a sense of community among the participants and give them to opportunity to come up with concrete ideas for the content of the action plan. An important part of the workshops was to network and half a day of the first meeting was dedicated for participants to get to know each other.
Different topics were proposed and participants were free to choose a forum. In order to facilitate the work, material was made ready and the discussions were facilitated by moderators. After the first meeting four groups had been established. Each group had an assignment to meet again privately between the workshops. The Women’s Department also put up a closed website where participants could access information and interact with each other. In their different functions as representatives ‘from the field’, participants were not given so much directions but were free to brainstorm and come up with concrete ideas of actions themselves.
Two weeks after the second workshop – 8 action ideas had been proposed and all participants cross over the four groups were invited to choose one out of the 8 action ideas to focus more on.
Example of actions:
The result of the workshops was that each participant belonging to a working group gets a task to fulfill. Everyone brings in his own resources and ideas to enhance gender equality. This approach empowered stakeholders by involving them and sharing responsibility in the implementation of the actions. Here are three examples:
Finding and Keeping Female Leaders – a cross-sector Exchange Between Enterprises in Frankfurt: For instance the large banks and enterprises participating in the process willmeet four times a year, always at a different enterprise and exchange for example about their strategies how to develop female employees to become leaders, in order to make the process more transparent and to inspire one another.
Career Role Models in Frankfurt: Until end of 2016, projects in Frankfurt am Main will support adolescents in their career choices by providing access to a pool of role models. Role models will be chosen whose professions are not related to traditional gender roles: female carpenters, male nurses, etc. Via direct interaction, these career role models will inspire young people to broaden their horizons and to think beyond typical female or male professions.
Exchange “Supply Meets Demand“: This measure is designed to enhance communication between potential employment enterprises and the sector of unemployed women in Frankfurt am Main. Direct contact with interested enterprises will especially serve women with fragmented life courses, gapped employment biographies, and those with insufficient knowledge regarding qualification requirements, the job market, and employment opportunities. The measure shall provide a chance for unemployed women to attain positive self-presentation. Both parties will be prepared in advance of the exchange planned for 2016. Preparation will consist of information-sharing and awareness-raising for employment enterprises, and of tailor-made service enhancements in existing labour market projects and programs concentrating on self-marketing.
Match different processes: The participatory process was very well received among the participants. However, a challenge was to match vivid public participation with regulated administrative procedures. If the participatory process is characterized as being quick, dynamic and lively, the administration on the other hand is often directed by hierarchies and rather lengthy decision making processes.
Involving men: Another difficulty was to involve more men in the work. To the first workshop, a target had been set of inviting at least 30 percent men. If people did not respond the Women’s Department would follow-up by a phone call. They found out that a large number of men who had received the invitation had either transferred the invitation to a female colleague; either not understood why they had been contacted since they were not directly working on the topic. The result was that on the first workshop they had 10 percent men. At the second workshop they had the same number of men but since the participation doubled they had only 5 percent men. This remains problematic, because when men do not feel the necessity to get involved in equality work it continues to be considered a “women’s issue” and not, at it really is, a society’s issue.
Intense public engagement is a success in itself, not only for the implementation of the Action Plan for gender equality, but for the benefit of all of Frankfurt am Main’s citizens. The women and men who have developed the actions are the ones who will carry them out. It is with great respect that we acknowledge this “get-up-and-go” attitude, especially in a city as bustling as Frankfurt am Main.