Germany: Role of Women in Civil Society Development
About the experience of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs
Novokuznetsk hosted a forum titled 'Role of Women in Developing Industrial Regions'. One of the forum’s platforms was dedicated to civil society institutions. Participants from different regions of Russia alongside with those from different countries shared their experience in implementing social projects and activity of social organisations. Karin van Mourik shared about the role of women in civil society development in Germany, taking the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs as an example.
Karin van Mourik - Board Member of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs, President of the Hear the World Foundation, Germany
Germany has many self-financed civil associations founded by people who want to contribute to the development of the country and the improvement of life of people around. They struggle against environmental pollution, help those who suffered from natural disasters, and organise different actions, festivals, and sport competitions.
For example, there is a picturesque forest in the West of Germany. All its roads and footpaths are equipped with direction posts and description of different walking routes. Thanks to them, people can enjoy interesting walking. All that was made by a volunteering civil association.
“Installing direction posts in the forest seems to be a little thing. However, that little thing is called taking care of people. Civil involvement is not only one of the main pillars of our country but also a lifestyle for many people in Germany”, comments Karin van Mourik.
Ms. van Mourik is a Board Member of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs that includes about 1.5 thousand people. They are business leaders who employed about 500 thousand people and whose combined turnover amounts to 85 billion euro. Members of the organisation take part not only in economic but also in social field of activity paying much attention to addressing the most important issues.
The history of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs begins with Kate Ahlmann, a purposeful businesswoman who initially wasn’t an entrepreneur.
After sudden death of her husband in 1954, Kate Ahlmann became responsible for steel company with thousands of employees. She quickly understood that a woman couldn’t be perceived as an entrepreneur in the post-war times. Then Ms. Ahlmann found 30 like-minders and founded the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs. The number of its members quickly increased up to 100 and then up to 1000 people. Today, the Association has 16 provincial and 25 regional subsidiaries.
“Our goal is to ensure equal participation of men and women in industrial and commercial chambers and the most important associations that shape economic policy of the country. We strive to promote women to leadership positions for their voices to be heard”, explained Karin van Mourik.
The Association is meant to strengthen the role of women in economy and contribute to promotion of women entrepreneurs to international level. Moreover, the organisation became a major platform for exchanging experience and establishing business contacts.
Over 65 years of its work, the Association has made considerable progress. Thus, one of its members became the first woman to take pear in the plenary session of the German Chamber of Industry and Trade. Many women entrepreneurs followed her example. Today, women amount to 30% of participants of the Chamber’s sessions. One of the Association’s members also became the first woman in the anti-monopoly commission of the Cabinet of Germany.
The Association contributed to increase in the number of women in supervisory boards by supporting the adoption of a gender quota law.
In 2017, Germany was the host country for G20. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, requested the Association to take the responsibility for organisation of the W20 women’s dialogue. Top-level speakers took part in the meeting.
“That event helped unite women’s economic forces of the world. Thus, serious prospects for women entrepreneurs appeared for the first time. The results of W20 meeting were included in the G20 communique”, said Karin van Mourik.
At the end of her speech, Ms. van Mourik stressed: women play a huge role in all spheres of society. A common feature unites women worldwide. They all aim their potential at improving the future of their countries and the world as a whole.
Anna Repina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov