BERLIN – For the first time in 16 years, Germany will be ruled by a man. But although Angela Merkel hands over the chancellery to a male successor, the new government will have more women than ever before. Half, to be exact.
Olaf Scholz, the new chancellor, has kept his election promise to appoint as many women as men to his government – and not only that, women will lead all matters relating to security and diplomacy.
Germany will have its first female Minister of Foreign Affairs and its first female Minister of the Interior. He will also get his third female defense minister in a row.
“Security will be in the hands of strong women in this government,” Scholz said on Monday. “Women and men each make up half of the population, so women should also have half the power,” he added. “I am very proud that we have succeeded in achieving this.
The fact that he is doing something that Merkel has never achieved herself – gender parity in the cabinet – is a testament to the mixed gender legacy for the outgoing Chancellor, who for more than a decade was the most powerful woman in the world.
Ms. Merkel has long avoided the word feminist, and until her last years in office, she rarely publicly promoted the issue of the advancement of women. There are noticeably few female entrepreneurs in Germany. And even in politics, where Merkel has proven to be a role model for many, the number of female ministers and lawmakers under her watch has remained around a third.
Yet many attribute her long and popular tenure to the fact that Mr Scholz and his team felt compelled to endorse gender parity.
“Germany has evolved in recent years, and Merkel has played a big role there,” said Jutta Allmendinger, president of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center research institute and expert on gender and inequalities. “So in a way, Scholz heeded the country’s call.”
“Merkel has always made her gender policy in secrecy,” Ms. Allmendinger said. “She’s an absolute feminist. The fact that she did not proclaim it publicly has to do with the fact that she probably would have lost her power.
The women taking office this week have made it clear that they intend to leave their mark on their ministries.
Annalena Baerbock, the new foreign minister, has expressed her intention to take a tougher line on strategic rivals like China and Russia. The new Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, pledged Monday to “fight the greatest threat which currently weighs on our liberal democracy: extreme right-wing extremism”. And Christine Lambrecht, who will become Minister of Defense, has promised to endow the notoriously under-equipped German army with the resources it needs.
Unlike Merkel, these ministers seem to have no qualms about proclaiming their feminism.
Klara Geywitz, the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development, called the gender equality cabinet “an important signal for all women in our country”.