BERLIN – For the first time in 16 years, a man will rule Germany. But while Angela Merkel is handing over the office to a male successor, there will be more women in the new office than ever before. Half, to be exact.
Olaf Scholz, the new chancellor, has kept his campaign promise to appoint as many women as men to his government – and not only that, women will preside over all security and diplomatic briefs.
Germany will have the first female foreign minister and the first female interior minister. He will also receive his third consecutive female defense minister.
“Security will be in the hands of strong women in this government,” Scholz said on Monday. “Women and men make up half of the population, so women should also receive half of the power,” he added. “I am very proud that we were able to make this happen.”
That he is doing what Ms Merkel has never achieved – gender parity in the cabinet – speaks to the mixed gender heritage of the outgoing chancellor, who was the most powerful woman in the world for over a decade.
Ms Merkel has long avoided the word “feminist” and until her final years in power rarely publicly promoted the issue of improving the status of women. As you know, there are very few women business leaders in Germany. And even in politics, where Ms Merkel has become a role model for many, the number of women ministers and legislators in her post remained about a third.
However, many believe that her long and popular tenure in this position is due to the fact that Mr. Scholz and his team felt compelled to maintain gender parity.
“Germany has evolved over the past few years and Ms Merkel has played a big role in that,” said Jutta Allmendinger, president of the WZB Research Institute of the Berlin Center for Social Sciences and an expert on gender and inequality. “In a sense, Scholz followed the call of the country.”
“Merkel has always been secretly involved in gender politics,” said Ms Allmendinger. “She is an absolute feminist. The fact that she did not publicly announce this is due to the fact that she would probably have lost her power. “
The women taking office this week have made it clear that they intend to make their mark in their ministry.
Annalena Baerbock, the new foreign minister, has been outspoken about her plan to take a tougher line against strategic rivals such as China and Russia. New Interior Minister Nancy Feather pledged on Monday “to fight the biggest threat our liberal democracy currently faces: extreme right-wing extremism.” And Christine Lambrecht, who will become defense minister, has pledged to supply Germany’s notoriously under-equipped army with the resources it needs.
Unlike Ms Merkel, these ministers seem unhesitating to declare their feminism.
Clara Geywitz, the new minister of housing and urban development, called the gender equality cabinet “an important signal for all women in our country.”