Zonta advancing power of women through its global network

Women play key roles in politics and society. Hamburg to host 65th Zonta International Convention in 2022
20 July 2021

The pandemic has spelt bad news for women's professional equality, a survey by PwC has found. COVID-19 is reversing gains made over the last decade for women in the workforce. "And by the end of 2021, the situation of women in work will be back at 2017 levels. COVID-19 has increased the unequal burden of care carried by women, causing more women than men to leave the labour market during the pandemic," the study found. However, a slightly lower incidence rate in summer 2021 and rising vaccination numbers are offering glimmers of hope although the repercussions of the Delta variant of COVID-19 may yet put a dampener on things.  

Global association of working women

Zonta has advocated on gender equality and sought to empower women for over a hundred years and not merely since the outbreak of coronavirus. Founded in 1919 in Buffalo, New York, pioneering women had a vision to help all females achieve greater equality while putting their individual and collective expertise at their community's service. Zonta International is a now a global association of professional women. "Our founding mothers wanted to make the world a better place after the experiences of World War I. They decided to support women, as they play key roles in politics and society. That remains the case today," said Christine Gerberding, Managing Editor of NDR's Kulturjournal TV show. After volunteering with Zonta in 2003, Gerberding and other dedicated women founded the Zonta Club Hamburg-Hafen bringing the number of its Hamburg-based clubs to five. The association now has 1,200 branches in 63 countries.

© Christine Gerberding
Christine Gerberding, joint founder of Zonta Club Hamburg-Hafen

Education as basis

"We are a service club, which means we raise donations for programmes, projects or even scholarships, focusing on education, among others," said Gerberding. That ranges from supporting young female school dropouts - a problem that has been exacerbated by coronavirus - to single female students seeking an academic degree. Enabling women to participate equally in society's economic, social and cultural life is among key 'Zontian' goals and based on education."

Fault tolerance fostering creativity and innovation

Networking and role models are among other means of achieving greater inclusion. Zonta seeks solidarity with other organizations especially the National Council of German Women's Organizations. Zonta's members gain opportunities to talk to others based on trial and error. "That includes a safe environment in which mistakes can be made," Gerberding stressed as fault tolerance fosters creativity and innovation are needed.

International outlook

Women held around 28 per cent of management positions in Germany in 2020 - a drop of 2 per cent over 2019, according to Germany's Federal Statistical Office. "Women are still responsible for most of the care in families," Gerberding pointed out, adding: "I experience a more balanced division of housework and childcare among Scandinavian Zontians. And we can learn from French Zonta women how naturally they combine child and career."

© Theresa Lohmeyer
Senate reception on 100th anniversary of Zonta International in December 2019 (from. l. to r.: Silke Riehl-Wittekind, Dr. Dagmar Entholt-Laudien, Dr. Susanne von Bassewitz, Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Dorothea Patt, Julie Schellack, Sabine Pagels-Witschen

65th Zonta International Convention in Hamburg

The Zontian commitment is definitely appreciated in Hamburg and the senate held a festive reception to mark the 100th anniversary of Zonta International in December 2019. Members across the globe will have an opportunity to meet face to face when Hamburg hosts the 65th Zonta International Convention from June 24-28, 2022. "Events include a mix of lectures and workshops, but we are still working on the details. We would like to co-operate with many companies in Hamburg as part of that process as well. Actually hosting the convention offers a fantastic opportunity to present Hamburg to the women’s world," said Gerberding. 

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Founded in 1919 in the U.S., Zonta International is an international service club of professional women in positions of responsibility who are dedicated to improving the lives of women in legal, political, economic, professional and health terms. The global network comprises almost 30,000 members in 1,200 Zonta Clubs across 63 countries including 136 in Germany. Founded in Hamburg in 1931, Germany's very first Zonta Club is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Four other clubs in Hamburg-Alster, Hamburg-Elbufer, Hamburg-Hanse and Hamburg-Hafen have since followed. The name, Zonta, is borrowed from the symbolic language of the Sioux Indians and means to act honourably, be trustworthy and have integrity.