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Who are the real guardians of the glass ceiling?
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Women, leadership and equality politics


He is putting the male managers under the spotlight: sociologist Carsten Wippermann © Sinus Sociovision
He is putting the male managers under the spotlight: sociologist Carsten Wippermann © Sinus Sociovision
Mr Wippermann, you have exposed male managers as proper chauvinists in your study ...
I don't see it that way at all. The reservations, or let's say the concerns they have regarding women at the top are not conscious or malicious. On the contrary. The goodwill and the appreciation of professional competence that they show towards women is truly sincere. They are serious in this. The reservations lie much, much deeper.

At least the surveyed managers have had their eyes opened...
The surveyed managers were not aware of the fact that they actually contradicted themselves while they were talking. For these men there was a certain logic to it. It was also important to us for scientific reasons not to point their contradictions out to them. They did know, however, that the interview concerned a topic of social politics.

Did you not also question yourself – as a man – in connection with this work?
Oh dear, this is getting serious now! (Laughing) But I actually did ask myself which type I might belong to. After all, I am also a manager, a head of department. Although I’m sure subjectively, of course, that I’m totally free of these reservations, I must admit honestly that it made me think and that I have had the odd insight.

And what would that be?
I reckon that will remain my secret. Don't forget, however, that I did not carry out the study on my own, but worked with a team.

Your wife was part of this team as well. What effect does this work have on your private life as a couple?
My wife and I have been working together for a very long time. At the beginning, it was indeed a little strange to do research on equality together. Occasionally, you got to thinking about what the situation actually was for us at home.

And, who does the housework?

We share it and have done so for a long time.

Can your work make life easier for your two daughters?
Not at all, I don't have any illusions on that score. That sort of thing takes time; one study such as this can't pave the way. My wife and I endeavour to conduct an equal partnership and to provide a living example to them that way. And we try and keep our professional and private lives separate where possible.

And what advice will you give to your daughters for their working lives – say, as managers?
Not to let others frighten them off, to be self-assured – yet not blind, but conscious of the structures. Thinking you can create and achieve everything by yourself is a mistake. You do need support. And in this context I would like to say something to young women generally – if I may.

Yes, please do!
Many of you don't want to hear about equality politics because you don't need it as independent women. Many men actually think the same way. But when you consider the topic of women in leadership positions it's a different matter: We have proved once again that there are structures keeping women back. With respect to this topic it is important for equality politics to be on the agenda.


Women in Focus Editor
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