As we approach International Women’s Day 2023, it is an opportune moment to reflect on the status of professional women in Germany and assess where progress has been made and where there is still room for improvement. HiBob has continued its annual tradition by commissioning a national online survey, which took place in January 2023 and included responses from 1,000 professional women in Germany. The study targeted women aged 25 and above who were employed full-time in a hybrid or in-office workplace in both 2021 and 2022, and also provided detailed breakdowns of the data by company size, role, profession, parental status, and age group.
This report presents valuable insights into professional women’s perspectives and experiences on various workplace issues such as compensation, promotions, salary, and work-life balance. The findings highlight the challenges and opportunities that German women face in the modern workplace, providing crucial information for policymakers and employers seeking to address gender disparities and create more equitable work environments.
- The majority of German professional women believe that women and men are not promoted equally.
- Women professionals in Germany report that women are paid less than men and report low levels of pay transparency.
- Hybrid and flexible work models have not yet led to a discernable improvement in achieving equal rates of promotions and pay increases for women.
- Job mobility for women is high—over a third of German women left their job or were fired in 2022 and 19% plan to leave their job in 2023.
- The economic downturn has decreased job security for German professional women.
1. The majority of German professional women believe that women and men are not promoted equally.
A majority (60%) of professional women in Germany believe that there is a lack of gender equality in the workplace, specifically concerning promotions, and that women and men are not given equal opportunities to progress in their careers. Only 40% think that there is equality in promotion rates. Although there was some variation in the percentages according to role, age, and company size, the majority of women in all cross sections in the survey believe that women and men are not promoted equally in Germany.
2. Women professionals in Germany report that women are paid less than men and report low levels of pay transparency.
The gender gap in the workplace extends beyond promotion, with pay and pay transparency being significant areas of concern. According to the survey results, 45% of respondents believed that women and men are not paid equally, and an additional 19% said that they didn’t know, indicating a low level of transparency regarding pay in German companies. In fact, almost a quarter (24%) of the respondents reported their organization does not share any information about pay or benefits, further compounding the issue.
Women who are parents were much more likely to believe that women and men are paid equally—46% of women respondents who are not parents believe that there is equality, compared to only 34% of women who are parents.
A lack of transparency around pay can create mistrust between male and female employees, allowing inaccurate perceptions, preconceptions, and assumptions about pay disparities to persist. This can undermine trust and collaboration between colleagues and potentially exacerbate gender disparities by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension.
3. Hybrid and flexible work models have not yet led to a discernible improvement in achieving equal rates of promotions and pay increases for women.
Although flexible work models have been touted as a way to even the playing field for women in general and mothers in particular, our survey shows that this has not yet fully materialized in Germany. Some good news is that 23% of respondents feel flexible work models have equalized the playing field, and an additional 26% feel they allow women to balance family and home responsibilities better. However, 22% feel that the option for flexible work has made no difference, and 29% feel that women still have less time to dedicate to their careers because of family responsibilities— an important number for German companies to note.
Again, there is a disparity between parents and non-parents. Parents were more likely to say that flexible work models allow women to balance family responsibilities with their careers. However, they were also more likely to say that flexible work models make no difference when it comes to promotions and that women are still promoted more than men.
4. Job mobility for women is high—over a third of German women left their job or were fired in 2022 and 19% plan to leave their job in 2023.
German women are not staying put in roles that do not provide them with the level of fulfillment or opportunities for professional growth they desire. Our survey indicated a high level of job mobility, including women leaving their jobs, being fired, or planning to leave in the near future.
Women who are parents are much more likely to leave their job or be let go than women who are not parents. In fact, while 65% of non-parents said they are at the same job in the same company as last year, only 39% of parents said the same.
5. The economic downturn has decreased job security for German professional women.
According to our survey, 49% of professional German women are either worried about being let go or have just been let go. An additional 16% are neutral, and only one-third of the respondents (34%) are not worried about being let go in the current downturn.
Parents are much more worried about being let go in the economic downturn—43% of parents said that they were worried about this compared to 27% of non-parents. On the flip side, 56% of non-parents said that they were not worried, compared to only 28% of parents.
Promotions, advancement, and confidence
HiBob’s survey clearly indicates that professional women in Germany do not feel they are promoted equally to men—only 40% of women agreed that women are promoted equally within their company, compared to more than half (60%) felt they are not promoted equally.
Younger women were slightly more likely to believe that women and men are promoted equally, indicating a trend toward improvements in this area for new generations coming into the workforce.
The survey revealed that there were notable differences in perceptions among respondents based on their job roles. A significant majority (71%) of women in engineering or tech roles felt that men and women were not promoted equally, compared to 54% of women in administrative roles and 56% of those in customer support roles.
Respondents who hold managerial roles were less likely to believe that women and men are promoted equally when compared to respondents who don’t manage others—37% of managers believed that there is equality compared to 42% of individual contributors.
Overall perception vs. personal experience of promotions
The issue of unequal promotion is not solely a matter of perception. When it comes to what the respondents have experienced personally in the workplace, a significant proportion—approximately one-third—said that they have not been promoted in pay, benefits, or position in the past year. While 36% received an increase in benefits or pay, only 10% were promoted to a new position.
Age also has a notable impact on pay increases. 26% of respondents aged 25-44 reported receiving a pay increase, compared to only 15% of women aged 54 or older. However, it is worth noting that this could be attributed to the fact that older women may already be at the top of their pay scale.
The survey points to a real difference between parents and non-parents when it comes to pay increases—30% of non-parents report receiving a pay increase, compared to only 18% of parents. In addition, more parents report having recently applied for a promotion in pay, benefits, or position in 2023, indicating that they are not satisfied with their current working conditions.
The majority of professional German women feel confident in their performance—56% reported feeling very or mostly confident. However, a significant number of the respondents (28%) reported struggling with confidence in their performance.
Once again, a notable variation was observed between roles. Women in managerial roles felt significantly less confident than individual contributors.
Respondents in customer success and administrative roles felt significantly more confident in their performance than those in marketing and sales, with fields like finance and HR falling in the middle of the confidence scale.
Company size also impacts women’s confidence levels. Women in companies with 1000+ employees were more likely to report that they feel confident in their performance and less likely to say that they struggle with confidence than women in companies of other sizes. Women working in small companies with 51-100 employees were also more confident than women working in mid-sized companies with 101-1000 employees.
Parental status also has a significant impact on women’s confidence. While 71% of non-parent women said they feel very or mostly confident about their performance, only 52% of parents said the same. Likewise, 30% of parents do not feel confident about their performance, compared to only 17% of non-parents.
The effectiveness of diversity initiatives appeared to vary, with both positive and negative feedback. Almost one-third of the respondents reported a balance between women and men in leadership, and an additional 31% felt that their company has made a visible commitment to developing more women leaders in the last year. However, 37% felt that their company had not made a visible commitment, highlighting the need for continued progress.
Uncomfortable, gender-related questions in the workplace
The issue of gender in the workplace is prevalent in Germany, as revealed by the survey results. 40% of the respondents reported that a colleague had at some point made them feel uncomfortable or less qualified because they are a woman.
The data also showed a slight variation based on age, with older women more likely to have had such an experience compared to their younger colleagues.
Women in senior, C-suite positions were least likely to have been made to feel uncomfortable, with 33% reporting having had such an experience. Comparatively, low percentages of women in sales and HR reported this type of experience. In contrast, more than half of women in marketing and legal roles reported having had this type of experience.
Perceptions about pay
Our survey showed that there is still work to be done regarding pay equity and transparency in Germany. 45% of the respondents believe that women and men are not paid equally in the German workplace.
Parental status influences perceptions about pay equity. 46% of non-parent women respondents said they believe women and men are paid equally, compared to only 34% of parents.
Pay transparency can be key to minimizing the pay gap, changing perception, and building trust. However, pay transparency is low in Germany. Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) said that their organization does not publish or share any salary information whatsoever. Only 14% said that their organization meets the bare minimum legal requirements for salary disclosure, and only 17% said that their organization shares salary information internally, indicating that there are still significant gaps in salary transparency in the German workplace.
Women are aware of the pay gap and are looking for ways to minimize it. When asked what would convince someone to move to a new role, 42% of the respondents chose a pay increase. Women were also more likely to be influenced by flexible work models—40% said that the offer of flexible work would convince them to move to a new job.
Parental status significantly impacts what would convince women to move to a new role. Women who are parents were less likely to be enticed by flexible work models or an increase in pay. They were more likely to be enticed by mentorship opportunities and visible women in leadership roles.
When it comes to reasons for taking new jobs, different factors were at play for women in different roles. The survey found that women in managerial roles were less attracted by flexible work models than individual contributors, with 35% and 44%, respectively. Moreover, they were also less likely to be enticed by an increase in pay, with only 37% saying it would influence them, compared to 46% of individual contributors.
By contrast, women in managerial roles were more likely to be enticed by mentorship opportunities and visible women in leadership roles than individual contributors.
Work-life balance and benefits
Following the pandemic, more companies offer flexible, remote, and hybrid work options than in the past. However, our survey shows that professional women in Germany aren’t overly optimistic about the future of work-life balance. 33% expect their work-life balance to be worse than it was in 2022, and 26% expect it to be the same. Only 30% expect it to improve in the coming year.
Although flexible and remote work models are now common, only 9% of the survey respondents reported that they do not go into the office at all. When asked why they go in, an equal number (30%) reported that there were company mandates to do so or that face-to-face interaction was important to them. Younger respondents were more likely to come into the office because they find it easier to communicate with their manager and team in person.
When it comes to women-specific benefits, the picture was mixed. A quarter of German women reported that their company offered paternal or shared parental leave, and 22% offered extended paid maternity leave. However, 38% said their company does not offer women-specific benefits.
There was some disparity between age groups, with the 35-44-year-old age group, the group most likely to have young children, being an outlier. This group was less likely to report that their company offered a nursing or pumping room, and more likely to report childcare benefits were offered. This could be due to heightened awareness—since this group is most likely to be focused on or utilizing these benefits, they may be more aware of what is actually offered than women who do not currently need these benefits. It’s also possible that more women in this age group prioritize jobs in companies that provide for childcare-specific needs.
Women in managerial roles were more likely to report that their company offers women-specific benefits like extended maternity leave, paternity leave, and flexibility around menopause than individual contributors.
Effects of the economic situation on women in the workplace
The current economic downturn is having a significant impact on professional women in Germany. Almost half of the respondents (49%) were either worried about being let go or have been let go. Older respondents were less worried about being let go than their younger counterparts, most likely because they are more established in their workplace.
There is an extreme discrepancy between parents and non-parents when it comes to job stability. 65% of the non-parent respondents said they were still working at the same company as last year, whereas only 39% of parents said the same. In addition, 21% of parents said they will leave their job in 2023, compared to only 10% of non-parents.
Overall, while there have been some positive developments for women professionals in Germany, there are still many more challenges that need to be addressed.
On the positive side, there is a growing trend towards hybrid and flexible work models that allow for better work-life balance. A respectable proportion of women feel flexible work models have equalized the playing field and feel they allow women to balance family and home responsibilities better.
At the same time, while women welcome and value flexible work models, these have not yet led to a discernible improvement in creating equal growth opportunities. Additionally, women in Germany who believe they are paid less than men also appear to face low levels of pay transparency within their organizations. This is compounded by the fact that the majority of professional women believe that women and men are not promoted equally.
Furthermore, job mobility for women is high, with many women leaving their jobs or being fired in 2022 and a not insignificant proportion planning to leave their job in 2023. This points to the impact of the economic downturn, which has decreased job security for women professionals in Germany, especially for women who are parents.