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When looking at Stack Overflow jobs posted by German companies, I see a lot of them having a marking of m/f or m/w:

  • Security Architect (m/f) for embedded Linux Systems and AUTOSAR

  • Hackers wanted — Senior Developer / Team-Lead (m/w) gesucht.

  • Erfahrener Softwareentwickler (m/w) C++, C#, TDD, Continuous Integration & Testing

Do I understand correctly that this means male/female?

Why is there a need to mention that separately? I’m under the impression that it’s not really even legal to make single-gender job announcements except for very specific jobs such as modeling.

  • 4
    German posts in English are not German. – c.p. Sep 21 '16 at 16:24
  • But German (= from Germany) posts in English are German (= from Germany) – Jan Sep 21 '16 at 16:26
  • 5
    Cross-site duplicate of workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/59664/… – jwodder Sep 21 '16 at 19:20
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    Interestingly, one rarely sees “w/m” or “f/m”. Symbols are also unusual: “♂/♀”, “♀/♂”, “⚥”, “⚤”, “⚧”, but legally possible, I think. And of course, hermaphrodites, non-binaries, gender-fluids etc. are not accounted for. – Crissov Sep 24 '16 at 19:15
30

Yes, you are correc that (m/w) means male/female or better männlich/weiblich.

The reason it is added is due to German antidiscrimination laws and corresponding court rulings. German has a generic masculine gender for many nouns including most professions. But it also has a specific feminine noun that can be systematically derived from the masculine one by adding -in.

  • Softwareentwickler (generic masculine)

  • Softwareentwicklerin (specific feminine)

Court rulings have decided that using only the generic masculine noun is discriminatory, since it would imply searching only for male applicants. Instead, it must be made clear that there is no preference for either sex when recruiting. This can be established in the following ways:

  • Softwareentwickler oder Softwareentwicklerin

  • Softwareentwickler/Softwareentwicklerin

  • Softwareentwickler/in

  • Softwareentwickler/-in

  • SoftwareentwicklerIn

  • Softwareentwickler (m/w)

The first option is way too long if you consider newspaper ads where every millimetre of space costs money; the same thing goes for the second. The third and fourth are often seen as badly typeset. This also goes for the fifth, but additionally, depending on the typefaces used, it may imply only females are supposed to apply. Finally, the sixth is both unambiguous and short (even though a few characters longer than the third and fourth).

Of course, a variety of other methods are possible as mentioned in the comments, e.g.

Wir möchten eine Stelle in der Softwareentwicklung zum 1.12. neu besetzen.


It is not part of the question whether this assumption made by court rulings is backed by language usage and understanding (by non-feminists, that is). Hence I will not go into those details.

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  • 2
    Addendum: Also Austria has such laws, and therefore you find those abbreviations also in Austrian job offers (i.e. job offers from Austrian Companies), not only in German job offers. Companies that forget this, can get sued. – Hubert Schölnast Sep 21 '16 at 18:14
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    @KWeiss I’m pretty sure that it is mandatory for German companies even when the ad is in English. In any case, it is a great method to prevent getting sued at low cost. – Jan Sep 22 '16 at 8:03
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    See Directive 2000/78/EC, in particular §10(1). – Roland Sep 22 '16 at 8:04
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    @Martin-マーチン I’m a member of the green party and I find Softwareentwickler*in to be a harassment of German language. – Jan Sep 22 '16 at 8:04
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    @Crissov: "... eine Stelle in der Softwareentwicklung, und zwar die der Büroreinigungskraft, ..." ;) So ganz eindeutig ist es bei bloßer Nennung des Bereichs/der Abteilung irgendwie nicht zwangsläufig. – O. R. Mapper Sep 25 '16 at 23:24

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