Equal rights: This is how hard a step back in corona times

The consequences of Corona hit many of us particularly hard. But anger about it can also fuel more equality. How we prevent roll rollback – and what women are demanding now.

Yes, Corona threw us back. And shown where we really stand in terms of equality. And now? Let's use the location to change something!

I wrote this text in the engine room of a ship that has been plowing for months through a storm that is said to be the worst crisis since World War II. The waves have meanwhile smoothed out, pools and bars are open again on deck – but you don't notice much of it down here. Masses of children still run around between their parents' laptops, who have to be fun, schooled and brought to school or daycare for a few hours at hardly coordinable intervals. In the back sweat those millions who – often in addition to their own children – take care of the sick and the elderly under layers of protective clothing in clinics, homes and private apartments, cook food, empty trash cans, wipe floors.

What unites us: We are already quite at the end, but the end of our trip is still in the fog. And: We are mostly women.

The past few months have been a brutal – and fortunately now much described and lamented – lesson on how little we are equal. There was the matter of course with which the fathers mostly fled to the study with the school and daycare closures, while the mothers sometimes took up unpaid full-time positions as educators and teachers. There was a surge of almost only male politicians and experts who flocked to talk shows and press conferences as world leaders and future candidates for chancellor, while women were only allowed to describe their situation as "mother, currently in their home office" or "hotel manager, shortly before leaving". There was an increase in police operations due to domestic violence – and the eternal silence of the politics for the reopening of daycare centers and schools. Not to forget the hacking of the bonuses for those nurses without whom we would have capsized catastrophically at the height of the pandemic.

The problem did not arise from the crisis

Short: There was a lot that outraged one and made many fear that the ship was heading straight back to the 1950s. In the meantime, studies have shown that roll rollback does not go that far. For example, the increase in childcare that millions of families had to shoulder (and still have to shoulder) because of school and daycare closings was shared fairly, a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) and Bielefeld University showed.

The only problem is: even before the crisis, this work was distributed so dramatically unfairly at the expense of women (because they often have part-time jobs and yes: also because of traditional role models) that especially the mothers were soon close to the burnout due to the extra burden – and feel swung by the state. "Young women in particular have been encouraged in the past time and again: Dare children and careers, the state supports you," says sociologist Mareike Bünning from the Berlin Science Center. "This promise vanished in the crisis." The consequence: A good quarter of the mothers, but only a sixth of the fathers had to reduce their job in the shutdown due to childcare, according to a study by the Hans Böckler Foundation. And because the recession will probably be difficult to return to old working hours, further setbacks threaten: the growing financial dependence of women, the enlargement of the gender pay gap, the consolidation of traditional role models.

Trap home office

Even the home office often turns out to be a trap under such conditions. Rubbed between laptop and playpen, scientists have submitted significantly less research work to specialist journals since the beginning of the crisis. Women are also threatened in companies: In the home office, they would be less heard, top managers gave in a survey; informal circles, in which primarily men are in charge, are gaining influence. "In the crisis, disadvantages can arise that cannot be made up for so quickly," says Mareike Bünning.

For many women, of course, it is not about the next step in their career, but about their existence. The "she-cession" describes the strikingly hard economic consequences of the crisis for women worldwide. The fact that they often work in mini and part-time jobs and in companies without a collective agreement – often for reasons of compatibility – means that they also drop deep here with us: your short-time work allowance is increased less frequently, they are more often released unpaid, lose their jobs more often, also because they often work in crisis-ridden sectors such as gastronomy. Here too, the gaps between the sexes are widening and the opportunities for women are diminishing.

All of this does not make you feel like a hearty mutiny. Alone: ​​Not only are many people lacking the strength to do this, but above all complicates on the bridge: "Working mothers in particular do not have a strong lobby with us," says economist Katharina Wrohlich from DIW. "They are not really represented in the bodies that currently advise and influence politics."

So what to do? To grudge with the fact that the barge will stay on course even after the storm – with fewer women on the bridge and less appreciation for those who sweat below deck? That would be the one, deeply sad option. But if you look around among activists, researchers, and politicians, the hope grows that things could be different. Here are three preliminary crisis learnings that are cautiously optimistic:

1. Protest works

For weeks, #Coronaeltern and #Elterninderkrise wrote their fingers sore – with bills for hundreds of hours of homeschooling and the appeal, but finally to check whether school and daycare children are really super spreaders of the virus. Families demonstrated in the city centers. Under the hashtag #stattblumen thousands called for more equality. And slowly, very slowly something is happening. No, this does not mean the children's bonus, which at most does not help everyone at short notice and by no means. But the fact that the question of what the crisis is doing to women is gradually becoming a political issue. Green politicians in particular took up the topic and the frighteningly reserved Minister for Women Franziska Giffey invited to the school and daycare summit and called for a "gender justice check" for aid measures. North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg commissioned studies on virus transmission through children. And with the tax relief for single parents and the expansion of all-day care, the government at least managed to get through some measures that will specifically help women. Sure, that's still shamefully little. But: The topic is now on the table. If the pressure remains, it stays there. And this is important because:

2. The crisis is a magnifying glass

Just like under a microscope, you can study the tiresome structures that still slow down and keep women small. Never before has it been so clear how everything is connected to everything: the few women on the command bridge at a snail's pace when schools and daycare centers reopened. The gender pay gap with the disappearance of mothers below deck. The ideal of the self-sacrificing woman with the lousy working conditions in nursing. The lack of women in management positions with the poor compatibility of work and family. And it has never been so obvious how much we are suppressing one of the most important questions of the future: How can we finally distribute and pay care for children, the sick, the elderly fairly?

There have been many ideas for years: From the 32-hour week that leaves time for care work and volunteering to the abolition of spouse splitting, the pay gaps and traditional role models are cemented. From quotas that could secure the proportion of people from different backgrounds on committees and executive floors, to fixed wages for nursing professions that would ensure better working conditions and fairer wages. "What happens to mothers, nursing professionals and women at risk of violence in this crisis is not a fate that we have to put up with," says Cordelia Röders-Arnold, co-initiator of the # stattblumen campaign. "We can use our frustration with the chaos the pandemic plunges many of us to really make a difference."

3. The bill has to come

Just stupid that many are heading in the opposite direction. An expansion of the women's quota for companies? The Minister for Economic Affairs is not blocking the crisis. A Corona parental allowance that could promote fair distribution of care in families? Not even discussed.

Janina Kugel, former Siemens HR manager, is annoyed by this adherence to the status quo: "How do we want to be fit for the future if we don't take a step forward now?" The management consultant is currently promoting companies and politicians to promote diversity right now. But without backing from the engine room, reformers on the bridge could not do anything either: "My wish would be for people to look closely now: Which politician is behaving like, especially towards women? And that they remember when they move on to the next Times choose. "

The next choice is – still very far away. The state parliament does not start until March; There is a sea of ​​time between today and the federal election in autumn 2021. But the virus will accompany us on the journey. There will probably be more waves of infection, more shutdowns. That sounds like a nightmare. But maybe it's the opposite: a constant shake that keeps us awake and angry for even more tweets, demos, petitions. So that they see us on the bridge and know: Cursed, there are many. And they see us too.

Walked eight hours a week Kristina Maroldts Children to school in June. Little material got stuck there. The two can now "The three ???" join in. Your parents too.

Would you like to read more about the topic and exchange ideas with other women? Then check out the "Society Forum" of the BRIGITTE community past!

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BRIGITTE 16/2020

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