Is It Time for Women and Men to Speak the Same Language?


Karin Nordmeyer, Chairwoman of the UN Women National Committee, Germany, on ‘putting the communication of women and men on an equal footing.’

I remember a conference in which I brought an idea that did not resonate. A few minutes later, a man communicated the same — in “male language” — and created interest. Men’s perception of women impacts on their behaviour. Women feel they have to behave “tougher” than men. We need to move on from this and work on the perception of women and their ideas — this is very important to me.

The aim of UN Women is to create new, altered structures so that women can bring their full potential to life. It’s about putting the communication of women and men on an equal footing. The next step is to encourage and enable women to use these new and changed structures and we’re making progress — more than 1,700 CEOs worldwide have already signed a commitment to the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

I had no mentors in my career — they were not common at the time — which is precisely why I like to pass on my experiences and ideas to support young women and young men where I can. It’s important for me to give them advice and guidance and to show them possible changes of perspective. Discovering your own career path is a challenge, particularly for women today. Whereas previously, women had a lack of opportunities, today there is a “multi-option dilemma.”

My advice to young women is to carefully consider what you want to accomplish. Honestly ask yourself: What do I want? What can I do? Where and how can I apply my skills and knowledge in the most effective and meaningful way? What would make me happy and content?

This is a very difficult and sometimes painful process, but it’s worthwhile. It leads to ideas that can be implemented.

I urge women to embrace these tough questions, do not let these important life decisions slip from your hands. You can overcome the stumbling blocks if you become aware of your abilities and goals. And remember that not all leadership positions are worth aspiring to; other professional positions are valuable too.

When it comes to leadership, we must realise that this term will change significantly. Leadership will no longer be possible in hierarchical systems only. In the face of globalisation and digitisation, we’ll have access to more and more opportunities for flexible working and I see entirely new employment opportunities for women.

Karin spoke on 14 May at the first She Means Business conference during IMEX Frankfurt.

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