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  • Eastern German Women. Self-rea­li­sa­ti­on through employment


    Antje Barabasch

    As a woman you always have to be better than the best man in the team. That's the minimum for a successful woman, where patriarchy works." This is how Maria Gross, a cook and restaurateur from Thuringia, sums up the situation of East German Women (2019) in a MDR-documentary by Lutz Pehnert.

    The three-part docu­men­ta­ry “Ostfrauen” (East German Women, 2019) explores the self-per­cep­ti­on of women from the German Demo­cra­tic Republic (GDR) with regard to their gainful employ­ment, the com­pa­ti­bi­li­ty of family and career, and their par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in politics. The docu­men­ta­ry intercuts archival footage with inter­views of 18 East German women who talk about their lives, their work, the situation of women in society and their deve­lo­p­ment after ‘die Wende’. They reflect on how they grew into a life of dual burden between family and employ­ment and how this affected their self-image, but also their rela­ti­ons­hips with men. Both their search for self-rea­li­sa­ti­on and their need to help shape work and society as well as their pro­noun­ced prag­ma­tism helped them in the reo­ri­en­ta­ti­on phase of the ‘Wende’ years and led to suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sio­nal careers. Their idea of happiness is imbued with the need to take their lives into their own hands inde­pendent­ly of their partners.

    This new ori­en­ta­ti­on of women in East Germany, which began in the 1960s, posed great chal­len­ges to men with more tra­di­tio­nal ideas of the roles of women in the family and society. The fact that this did not take place without conflicts is shown, for example, by the high divorce rate in the GDR (Mühling & Schreyer, 2012). In contrast to women in ‘The West’, women in ‘The East’ benefited from laws that promoted their pro­fes­sio­nal inde­pen­dence and also from legal regu­la­ti­ons regarding childcare or abortion. As women were urgently needed in the world of work, the GDR promoted the image of a self-confident inde­pen­dent woman, while at the same time the influence of tra­di­tio­nal gender roles, which in ‘The West’ were largely deter­mi­ned by the church, declined. However, the fact that real equality (as enshrined in the con­sti­tu­ti­on since 1949) was also far from being achieved in East Germany was visible by the lower pro­por­ti­on of women in manage­ment positions, pay gaps between men and women and the fact that even in the late 1980s women were still mostly respon­si­ble for running the household and raising children (Würz, 2022).

    Even today, equality between men and women is a long way off in the Federal Republic. Currently, only 27.2% of pro­fes­sor­s­hips are held by women (Federal Sta­tis­ti­cal Office, 2022), and only one in every 3rd manager in Germany is a woman (Federal Sta­tis­ti­cal Office, 2021). However, it is striking to note that of these women, ‘Ostfrauen’ form a majority and their share even exceeds that of East German men in some areas (WSI, 2020). This suggests that the eman­ci­pa­ti­on of women in East Germany has con­tri­bu­t­ed to the deve­lo­p­ment of qualities needed to hold these positions. Although the dif­fe­ren­ces between East and West German women have narrowed over the last 30 years, the impact of a different defi­ni­ti­on of roles can still be seen in today’s sta­tis­tics: The wage gap between women and men is signi­fi­cant­ly larger in the West than in the East; labour force par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on among women is still slightly higher in the East than in the West — however, these sta­tis­tics do not dis­tin­guish between part-time and full-time work (WSI, 2020).

    In our days it is not so easy to explain whether East German values and con­vic­tions actually had an influence on the current Zeitgeist in the Federal Republic, or whether socio-economic con­di­ti­ons rather led to more labour force par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of women in the West as well. What is certain is that most East German women, after they lost their jobs in East Germany and went to the West seeking gainful employ­ment, took their demands for equal rights and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on with them. They learned to find their way under new cir­cum­s­tan­ces and have incre­a­singly been standing up for their values since then. Curiosity, impar­tia­li­ty and openness helped them, even if they were not always met with sympathy by West German women.

    Since German reuni­fi­ca­ti­on, many East German women have seen their rights, which had already become a matter of course, restric­ted, such as: ‘Babyjahr’ (having children without loosing one’s job) ‘Haus­halts­tag’*, pension credits earned through raising a family or the right to abortion without obli­ga­to­ry eva­lua­ti­on. Given that the Federal Republic is less committed to these rights, there remains a need for renewed soli­da­ri­ty among women, who obviously still have to struggle to gain their rights and their own self-image — in dis­tinc­tion to that of men. The docu­men­ta­ry rightly asks in part 2: Do women have to adapt to men in order to be accepted by them? Do women need to be accepted by men? Espe­cial­ly for women in leading positions in politics, business and society, the self-image of men as well as their habitus must not be allowed to be the norm for pro­fes­sio­nal success.

    * Haus­halts­tag (household day) was a fully paid, non-working day on which a worker could take care of household chores and other family matters without having to take extra days off.

    Antje Barabasch, is an edu­ca­tio­nal scientist and professor at the Swiss Federal Uni­ver­si­ty for Voca­tio­nal Education and Training (SFUVET) in Zol­li­ko­fen. Her research includes learning cultures and inno­va­ti­on in Swiss voca­tio­nal education and training

    Refe­ren­ces
    Hobler, D., Pfahl, S. & Zucco, A. (2020). 30 Jahre deutsche Einheit. Gleich­stel­lung von Frauen und Männern auf den Arbeits­märk­ten in West- und Ost­deutsch­land? Wirt­schafts- und Sozi­al­wis­sen­schaft­li­ches Institut (WSI), Report 60.
    Mühling, T. & Schreyer, J. (2012). Bezie­hungs­ver­läu­fe in West- und Ost­deutsch­land – Sta­bi­li­tät und Übergänge. ifb Mate­ria­li­en 4–2012.
    Nickel, H. M. & Kopplin, M. (2019). Ostfrauen — Mythos und Wirk­lich­keit. Wis­sen­schaft­li­che Kom­men­tie­rung der Daten des ALLBUS 2018. Im Rahmen des Projekts „Ostfrauen“
    des Rundfunk Berlin-Bran­den­burg und des Mit­tel­deut­schen Rundfunk, Humboldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Berlin.
    Sta­tis­ti­schen Bundesamt (2021). Frauen in Füh­rungs­po­si­tio­nen.
    Sta­tis­ti­sches Bundesamt (2022). Frau­en­an­teil in der Pro­fes­so­ren­schaft in Deutsch­land von 1999–2021.
    Würz, M. (2022). Frauen im Sozia­lis­mus, in: Leben­di­ges Museum Online, Stiftung Haus der Geschich­te der Bun­des­re­pu­blik Deutschland.

    Currently (March 2023) only part 2 and part 3 are acces­si­ble online.

    Frauen in der DDR [Women in the GDR], German, 8mim44 

    Ostfrauen [Eastern German Women], (2/3), DE 2019, Lutz Pehnert, 44min  

    Ostfrauen [Eastern German Women], (3/3), DE 2019, Lutz Pehnert, 44min  

    Female workers in the GDR

    Female office workers in the GDR

    Tags

    Eastern German Women. Self-rea­li­sa­ti­on through employment

    Antje Barabasch

    As a woman you always have to be better than the best man in the team. That's the minimum for a successful woman, where patriarchy works." This is how Maria Gross, a cook and restaurateur from Thuringia, sums up the situation of East German Women (2019) in a MDR-documentary by Lutz Pehnert.

    The three-part docu­men­ta­ry “Ostfrauen” (East German Women, 2019) explores the self-per­cep­ti­on of women from the German Demo­cra­tic Republic (GDR) with regard to their gainful employ­ment, the com­pa­ti­bi­li­ty of family and career, and their par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in politics. The docu­men­ta­ry intercuts archival footage with inter­views of 18 East German women who talk about their lives, their work, the situation of women in society and their deve­lo­p­ment after ‘die Wende’. They reflect on how they grew into a life of dual burden between family and employ­ment and how this affected their self-image, but also their rela­ti­ons­hips with men. Both their search for self-rea­li­sa­ti­on and their need to help shape work and society as well as their pro­noun­ced prag­ma­tism helped them in the reo­ri­en­ta­ti­on phase of the ‘Wende’ years and led to suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sio­nal careers. Their idea of happiness is imbued with the need to take their lives into their own hands inde­pendent­ly of their partners.

    This new ori­en­ta­ti­on of women in East Germany, which began in the 1960s, posed great chal­len­ges to men with more tra­di­tio­nal ideas of the roles of women in the family and society. The fact that this did not take place without conflicts is shown, for example, by the high divorce rate in the GDR (Mühling & Schreyer, 2012). In contrast to women in ‘The West’, women in ‘The East’ benefited from laws that promoted their pro­fes­sio­nal inde­pen­dence and also from legal regu­la­ti­ons regarding childcare or abortion. As women were urgently needed in the world of work, the GDR promoted the image of a self-confident inde­pen­dent woman, while at the same time the influence of tra­di­tio­nal gender roles, which in ‘The West’ were largely deter­mi­ned by the church, declined. However, the fact that real equality (as enshrined in the con­sti­tu­ti­on since 1949) was also far from being achieved in East Germany was visible by the lower pro­por­ti­on of women in manage­ment positions, pay gaps between men and women and the fact that even in the late 1980s women were still mostly respon­si­ble for running the household and raising children (Würz, 2022).

    Even today, equality between men and women is a long way off in the Federal Republic. Currently, only 27.2% of pro­fes­sor­s­hips are held by women (Federal Sta­tis­ti­cal Office, 2022), and only one in every 3rd manager in Germany is a woman (Federal Sta­tis­ti­cal Office, 2021). However, it is striking to note that of these women, ‘Ostfrauen’ form a majority and their share even exceeds that of East German men in some areas (WSI, 2020). This suggests that the eman­ci­pa­ti­on of women in East Germany has con­tri­bu­t­ed to the deve­lo­p­ment of qualities needed to hold these positions. Although the dif­fe­ren­ces between East and West German women have narrowed over the last 30 years, the impact of a different defi­ni­ti­on of roles can still be seen in today’s sta­tis­tics: The wage gap between women and men is signi­fi­cant­ly larger in the West than in the East; labour force par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on among women is still slightly higher in the East than in the West — however, these sta­tis­tics do not dis­tin­guish between part-time and full-time work (WSI, 2020).

    In our days it is not so easy to explain whether East German values and con­vic­tions actually had an influence on the current Zeitgeist in the Federal Republic, or whether socio-economic con­di­ti­ons rather led to more labour force par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of women in the West as well. What is certain is that most East German women, after they lost their jobs in East Germany and went to the West seeking gainful employ­ment, took their demands for equal rights and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on with them. They learned to find their way under new cir­cum­s­tan­ces and have incre­a­singly been standing up for their values since then. Curiosity, impar­tia­li­ty and openness helped them, even if they were not always met with sympathy by West German women.

    Since German reuni­fi­ca­ti­on, many East German women have seen their rights, which had already become a matter of course, restric­ted, such as: ‘Babyjahr’ (having children without loosing one’s job) ‘Haus­halts­tag’*, pension credits earned through raising a family or the right to abortion without obli­ga­to­ry eva­lua­ti­on. Given that the Federal Republic is less committed to these rights, there remains a need for renewed soli­da­ri­ty among women, who obviously still have to struggle to gain their rights and their own self-image — in dis­tinc­tion to that of men. The docu­men­ta­ry rightly asks in part 2: Do women have to adapt to men in order to be accepted by them? Do women need to be accepted by men? Espe­cial­ly for women in leading positions in politics, business and society, the self-image of men as well as their habitus must not be allowed to be the norm for pro­fes­sio­nal success.

    * Haus­halts­tag (household day) was a fully paid, non-working day on which a worker could take care of household chores and other family matters without having to take extra days off.

    Antje Barabasch, is an edu­ca­tio­nal scientist and professor at the Swiss Federal Uni­ver­si­ty for Voca­tio­nal Education and Training (SFUVET) in Zol­li­ko­fen. Her research includes learning cultures and inno­va­ti­on in Swiss voca­tio­nal education and training

    Refe­ren­ces
    Hobler, D., Pfahl, S. & Zucco, A. (2020). 30 Jahre deutsche Einheit. Gleich­stel­lung von Frauen und Männern auf den Arbeits­märk­ten in West- und Ost­deutsch­land? Wirt­schafts- und Sozi­al­wis­sen­schaft­li­ches Institut (WSI), Report 60.
    Mühling, T. & Schreyer, J. (2012). Bezie­hungs­ver­läu­fe in West- und Ost­deutsch­land – Sta­bi­li­tät und Übergänge. ifb Mate­ria­li­en 4–2012.
    Nickel, H. M. & Kopplin, M. (2019). Ostfrauen — Mythos und Wirk­lich­keit. Wis­sen­schaft­li­che Kom­men­tie­rung der Daten des ALLBUS 2018. Im Rahmen des Projekts „Ostfrauen“
    des Rundfunk Berlin-Bran­den­burg und des Mit­tel­deut­schen Rundfunk, Humboldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Berlin.
    Sta­tis­ti­schen Bundesamt (2021). Frauen in Füh­rungs­po­si­tio­nen.
    Sta­tis­ti­sches Bundesamt (2022). Frau­en­an­teil in der Pro­fes­so­ren­schaft in Deutsch­land von 1999–2021.
    Würz, M. (2022). Frauen im Sozia­lis­mus, in: Leben­di­ges Museum Online, Stiftung Haus der Geschich­te der Bun­des­re­pu­blik Deutschland.

    Currently (March 2023) only part 2 and part 3 are acces­si­ble online.

    Frauen in der DDR [Women in the GDR], German, 8mim44

    Ostfrauen [Eastern German Women], (2/3), DE 2019, Lutz Pehnert, 44min

    Ostfrauen [Eastern German Women], (3/3), DE 2019, Lutz Pehnert, 44min

    Female workers in the GDR

    Female office workers in the GDR

    Tags


    Between enlightenment and ‘plugging’.  A history of vocational guidance films on nursing

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    Combating nursing shortages through film has a history. A W-o-W film evening explored the changing nature of the nursing profession through vocational guidance films over the last 80 years.

    Capturing ‘Each and Every Moment" of nurses in training

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    A W-o-W film evening contrasted vocational guidance films with "Each and Every Moment", a heartfelt documentary by Nicolas Philibert on training of nurses at the La Croix Saint-Simon hospital in the suburbs of Paris.

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    W-o-W Filmscreening #1: Nursing shortage in the spotlight

    W‑o-W Film­s­cree­ning #1: Nursing shortage in the spotlight

    Work-o-Witch invites to its first film screening to discuss the role of film in the professional training of nursing staff and as a medium for addressing skills shortages, on 10 November 2022, at the Arthouse-Cinema of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

    Educating Frank

    Educating Frank

    "Educating Rita" (1983) is the undisputed favorite cinematic example of adult education research: rarely has social mobility through education been told in such a multifaceted and entertaining way. In the era of online teaching, it's worth revisiting the film with a focus on the second lead role, alongside Rita, the lecturer Frank, aka Michael Caine.

    Trainspotters’ job interviews

    Train­spot­ters’ job interviews

    Job interviews in feature films are rare. Nevertheless, film history has some special treats in store. From the point of view of public employment services, the interview scene from Trainspotting (1996) by Danny Boyle cannot be surpassed.

    1 8 9 10 11 12 45


    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.