Only those who are honest with themselves can change the system.

We live in a society that oppresses women, migrants and other minoritized groups. In order for society as a whole to change, each individual must work on themselves.

In our everyday lives, we regularly think in stereotypes and have prejudices without really being aware of them. Prejudices creep into our subconscious as we try to classify what we have experienced. Quite automatically, a kind of classification process takes place that helps us filter the most important information in order to make a quick decision. No matter how open-minded we think we are, and no matter how well we manage to maintain respectful relationships, our personal biases can have a significant impact on our environment. Some of us may have grown up in families where reservations about other people were commonplace. Others may have learned “only” through observation that, for example, women usually do the housework and migrant groups work in lower-paying jobs. We have all internalized how the patriarchal, sexist and racist system works. Consciously or unconsciously, this experience affects our beliefs and attitudes toward others, and we pass it on to our children – not only, if we are in a privileged position. Women can have misogynist prejudices against other women; People of Colour can internalize negative stereotypes against their own group – sometimes to an extent that they may even conform to it (Stereotype Threat).

How structural problems exacerbate the shortage of skilled workers

Racist or sexist prejudices are a structural problem and therefore do not stop at the labor market – with serious consequences for the economy. The shortage of skilled workers will continue to worsen if we do not change our thinking soon. Immigrants, for example, face unbelievable bureaucratic and linguistic hurdles that make integration into the world of work and everyday life very difficult. Children still lack role models beyond the usual roles in books, movies, and even at home. Although more and more women are pursuing careers in business and politics, it is often other women who take on the housework and childcare. The role of men has not changed to the same extent as that of women in recent decades. Only about 7% of them work part-time – compared to two-thirds of mothers. As long as this does not change, women will continue to end up in old-age poverty and be absent from the labor market. Equality will therefore only become a reality when men also take on responsibility at all levels. The single earner in 40plus hours per week has had its day. Work models must become more flexible, managers more empathetic and open: Leadership roles can only be performed full-time? Get out of this mindset! Only managers who adapt to the realities of employees’ and applicants’ lives and find flexible solutions – for example, in the form of job-sharing models or further training for immigrants – will help their companies achieve long-term success.

Reflect on yourself:
How have you internalized the system?

“The most important thing is that we all take a look at ourselves first and take a critical look at the world around us. We should think about what we need to do differently and create better framework conditions for it so that subsequent generations have a good and perhaps better future.”

Deal with your prejudices. How do you do that? Learn about common biases and how they play out. For example, gender bias. Many of us think men are more competent than women. Doesn’t happen to you? Then observe yourself in the next team meeting, at the parents’ evening in the daycare center or the next discussion in your circle of friends: Do you perhaps evaluate the spoken contributions of male, female or trans* persons differently? In what way? What assumptions are behind them? The more you reflect on yourself and the status quo, the better and more sustainable our society can become. The fact that you have read to the end of this blog post is already a good start!

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