Should women work

Women have achieved these rights over the past 100 years

© gettyimages / George Marks

Opening an account of your own and going to work without your husband's permission - women have not had these rights, which we take for granted, for very long.

In 1919 women in Germany were allowed to vote for the first time. 100 years later, International Women's Day becomes a public holiday in Berlin. And even if actual equality has still not been achieved: these rights, which we take for granted today, women have only fought for in the last 100 years.

+++Can't get enough of HR? Then register now for our newsletter. Click here for registration!+++

1. Women can vote

Women's suffrage just recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. On November 30, 1918, the Reich Election Act came into force in Germany, which granted women the right to vote and stand for election for the first time.

On January 19, 1919, the time had come: elections to the constituent German National Assembly took place and women could vote and be elected for the first time in Germany. 300 women ran, of which 37 women made it into the German National Assembly. With a total of 423 MPs at the time, this resulted in a quota of women of almost 9 percent. Incidentally, most of the female MPs were in the ranks of the SPD. In 1933 women lost the right to stand as a candidate again until the end of the Third Reich in 1945.

2. Women are allowed to manage their own assets

In 1958, the law on equality between men and women came into force in the Federal Republic of Germany. Now at least the man no longer had the last word on all marriage matters. Until then, he managed the assets his wife brought into the marriage, the interest resulting from them and the salary that his wife earned. From 1958 women were entitled to open their own account and thus decide about their own money.

3. Pregnant women and working mothers are protected by law

In 1950 the "Law on Mother and Child Protection and Women's Rights" came into force in the GDR. Women were given leave five weeks before and six weeks after the birth of their child and received benefits in full of their wages. The law also stipulated the expansion of state childcare and the promotion of working women. From 1958, nursing mothers received an additional nursing allowance of ten marks for six months. In the mid-1970s, further perks for mothers were decided, including the paid baby year.

West Germany was much slower in terms of maternity leave. Only after the SPD member Liesel Kipp-Kaule drew attention to the fact that work during pregnancy could endanger mother and baby, after much discussion, the “Law on the Protection of Working Mothers” was passed, which came into force in 1952. Since then, women have been allowed to stay at home six weeks before and after the birth on full pay and have been relieved of heavy physical labor, night work and piecework. The employees were not allowed to be dismissed until four months after the birth.

This law forms the basis for maternity protection to this day. There is currently an absolute prohibition of employment for mothers-to-be six weeks before the birth and eight weeks after the birth with full wages. In the case of premature and multiple births, mothers even have to stay at home for at least twelve weeks after the birth.

4. Women are allowed to work without the husband's permission

Up until 1958, a husband could decide his wife's employment relationship - that is, it was up to him whether she was allowed to work and if he should change his mind, he could also terminate his wife's employment relationship at any time. That too changed with the Equal Rights Act of 1958. But: Until 1977 a woman in West Germany was only allowed to work if it was “compatible with her duties in marriage and family”. Tasks in the household and in bringing up children were clearly assigned to the woman.

It was not until 1977 that the first law reforming marriage and family law came into force. As a result, there was no longer any legally prescribed division of tasks in marriage. Since then, there is no longer any search for guilt in the event of a divorce, but the so-called breakdown principle applies. This means that the spouse who can no longer look after themselves after the divorce is entitled to maintenance from the ex-partner.

5. Women must at least receive the same salary according to the law

As early as the 19th century, women usually received less money than men for comparable work. In 1980, a law on equal treatment for men and women in the workplace ensured that women, at least according to the law, had to get the same salary for the same work.

Unfortunately, it looks different in practice to this day. How is this possible despite being legally anchored? It is often speculated that women simply do not dare to negotiate as much in salary negotiations - or do not even know what to ask for. The Pay Transparency Act passed at the beginning of 2018 was intended to counteract this. We still have a long way to go before we actually achieve equal pay.

6. Job advertisements must also be aimed at women

In 1994 the Second Equal Opportunities Act finally came into force. Among other things, it stated that job advertisements must be aimed at both men and women. From this point on, you had to make it clear that both genders were meant, for example by adding “(m / f)”.

The law also tightens the prohibition of gender discrimination in working life, is intended to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace and generally to promote work-life balance, especially among women.

Equal rights: still room for improvement

In the last 100 years, a lot has happened in terms of women's rights in working life. But of course there is still a lot of room for improvement: women still earn significantly less money on average than men, the proportion of women in management positions is still low and having a child often causes a significant kink in women’s Career.

International Women's Day on March 8th has been a public holiday in Berlin since 2019. Incidentally, it is an invention of the German socialist Clara Zetkin: At the second International Socialist Women's Conference in Copenhagen on August 27, 1910, she proposed to initiate a national day of struggle for women's suffrage and the emancipation of women workers.

Both the date and the meaning of Women's Day have changed time and again throughout history. As a day of struggle for equality, it is celebrated today, especially in large cities, with demonstrations against sexism, violence, discrimination and racism.