BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of women in senior leadership roles at Germany’s foreign ministry has increased sharply in the past year ago but they are still underrepresented in diplomatic missions overseas, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.
The ministry will soon name a new female state secretary, only the second woman to ever hold that role, and has made a conscious effort to promote diversity, Maas said. The percentage of women in the second-highest level of leadership is now 45 percent, up from 27 percent a year ago.
Germany needed to lead by example on the issue of women’s equality and empowerment - an issue it is championing on the U.N. Security Council, the minister said in a speech in Berlin.
“Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles in the foreign service, especially at our diplomatic missions,” said Maas, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition. “That is why we are changing course.”
“Our ministry must become more colourful and inclusive, so that we can represent the Germany of today and tomorrow in all of its facets overseas,” he said, a day before Berlin celebrates International Women’s Day as a formal holiday.
Maas said the current disparities originated 20 years ago, when women made up just 10 to 20 percent of new hires for the track to higher-ranking foreign service jobs. “We are desperately missing the women that weren’t hired then,” he said.
The ministry had replaced four of seven division chiefs with women in the past year, and had also named the first female inspector general for the ministry. A female state secretary would soon join the ministry soon, he said, without naming the person.
In addition, he said women accounted for a record 54 percent of the latest group of staff promoted to be attaches abroad.
The ministry also needed to revamp its culture to achieve a better work-life balance for all workers.
“We need a ministry culture that sees it as self-evident that good work and a fulfilling personal life - before 8 p.m. - are not antithetical, but they necessitate each other,” he said.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Susan Fenton