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Mommy or businesswoman?

„And your kids? “ „They also have a father. “

Something like this goes the conversation between a French businesswoman and her German colleagues. The French woman is a passionate manager and sometimes she works long hours. When she came to Germany she had to get accustomed with the questions of her colleagues. She takes it for granted that mommies can also be passionate managers and that daddies as well can take care of their children.

Last week I attended a round of talks at the Bavarian parliament. The topic was “Family-friendly world of work” and it was discussed from different perspectives; politics, research and industry. The role models of women and men in the business world of work were also mentioned.

For me this is a very interesting topic. Role models reflect the values of a society. Values are the basis for human’s behavior, perception and thinking. And intercultural communication is about differences in values of cultures.

Research shows that Germany is not considered to be a “macho-land”. Equality between men and women is very important and so fathers are entitled to parental leave. Nevertheless, reality shows that it is women who have to choose between family and career. After a long working day a mother is being asked if she misses her children and who is taking care of them. A father will hardly hear this question.

What is your experience? Is it an either mommy or businesswoman situation or a both-and-situation.

Like Germans consider Latin-America to be a homogenous region, Mexicans see Europe as a homogenous region. But the topic of women in management and achieving a work-life balance shows clear differences in the values of European countries.

In Sweden family is very important. After the birth of a child both parents take a longer parental leave. Afterwards they work full-time. Swedes cannot understand why German politicians debate about full-time and part-time.  Since family-time is very important in Sweden, the working day is clearly shorter than in Germany. This is clearly a both-and-solution.

German reality is a either-or-solution: either mommy or businesswoman. Germans separate family from business. Long working hours in management are common and it is up to the women to take a parental leave between 6 to 24 months. Afterwards they work mostly part-time. Fathers are taking more and more often parental leave, but they won’t go from full-time to part-time.

In Spain mothers return on full-time basis after 4 months. It is the grand-parents who help with child care.

In France the number of women in top management positions is rather high. And as the conversation at the beginning shows, a both-and-solution is normal: both, mommy and businesswoman. Compared to Sweden French parents have to deal with longer working hours.

These topics are not only important for politics, but also for business. If company is located in several countries, HR will experience varying demands of the employees. Manager will have to deal with different expectations of their staff members. International companies will have to find a solution between global policies and local demands.

A French woman expects a certain type of infrastructure, for example. A Swedish man wants to leave early to get his kid from kindergarten. German parents expect a parental leave for both, man and woman.

In honor of the world women’s day I would like to know how things are in your country. How does reality look like, when it comes to the topic women or mommies in management.

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