"Strengthen the commitment of women at all levels"
The future of religions will be determined by how they integrate women, says Annette Schavan, former Federal Minister for Research and Education. The committed Catholic was also the Federal Republic’s ambassador to the Apostolic See. She was able to observe the first signs of reforms by Pope Francis up close.
Görlach: In the Corona crisis, female political leaders in New Zealand, Taiwan and Germany played a large and positive role. Isn’t this the time to take a closer look at the competence and leadership style of women, who are still being discriminated in many parts of the world?
Schavan: Yes, that is why it is great that Religions for Peace is making the role of women in global peace processes visible. Anyone who wants to promote peace must strengthen the commitment of women at all levels.
Görlach: In your experience: How do men and women differ in their leadership style?
Schavan: Above all, female leadership skills are characterized by perseverance, great patience and the ability to initiate change. Women do not exhaust themselves in grand gestures. They know that leadership should be thought for the long-term. It is interesting for me that Pope Francis has pointed out several times that it is important to set processes in motion, not to occupy spaces. This is exactly what women are particularly good at.
Görlach: How can the leadership qualities of women and men be synchronized with one another? What would a harmonious coexistence of female and male leadership look like?
Schavan: In my experience, mixed teams are particularly suitable for a management culture. Then the perspectives complement each other and, in the best case, the strengths are fully brought into effect. This is possible when there is respect for one another.
Görlach: It is still not easy for women today. As religious office holders, they may be frowned upon. But without them as organizers the religious communities would not be in good shape. How can discrimination against women in the field of religion be broken?
Schavan: José Casanova, a sociologist of religion in the USA, pointed out a few years ago that the achieved equality of men and women in religious communities will determine their relevance in the future. My succinct answer is therefore: if a religious community does not understand this fact, then its relevance will dwindle massively in this 21st century.
Görlach: During your time as ambassador to the Apostolic See, a woman was entrusted with a leadership role in the Vatican for the first time. How did you experience this timid opening?
Schavan: In the diplomatic corps at the Apostolic See there were temporarily 14 women (out of 80 resident ambassadors) from different regions of the world. The experiences that I had in Rome during the 4 years were completely positive. This aspect was present in the Vatican, especially since none of us wanted to become “cardinal”.
Görlach: The subject of abuse of women under the guise of religion has a sad urgency. How can the abuse of power by male, religious leaders against women, and of course against children and young people, be counteracted?
Schavan: The first step is the dismantling of clericalism, because the associated exaggeration of religious offices is a gateway for abuse in all its forms. The expectation of accountability and transparency in the institution of the church must be met and administrative jurisdiction must be introduced.
Görlach: What is your outlook for the world in the 21st century? In the end, how will women be anchored in religion, politics and diplomacy and what positive changes will this have brought about?
Schavan: For me, the 20s of this century are in the foreground. It is still difficult to predict where the world is going. According to the sociologist Andreas Reckwitz we are witnessing the end of illusions in politics, economy and culture. This corresponds to the development of new authoritarian and nationalist structures. The story of freedom, which we believed 30 years ago to be a global self-runner, is apparently stalling. That is why we will have to convincingly stand up for the ideas of freedom, respect and equality in the global competition of value systems. Thus, it is desirable for the religions to become pioneers in this regard