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Gender equality continues to make progress in Swiss workforce

Magdalena Martullo-Blocher, CEO and vice-chair of Ems Chemie, is one of five leaders of top Swiss firms. © Keystone / Walter Bieri

The proportion of women in Swiss company boardrooms and management ranks continues to rise, according to an annual survey of the largest employers in both private and public sectors.

The share of management positions held by women increased from 10% in 2019 to 13% last year, says the latest edition of the Schilling ReportExternal link from executive headhunter Guido Schilling. Five of the biggest firms were led by a female CEOs in 2020 and this number is set to reach eight this year. Nearly a quarter of seats on supervisory boards of the top 100 firms in Switzerland are held by a woman.

An international comparative study by recruitment consultants Russell Reynolds published earlier this week also came to the conclusion that women held 13% of executive posts at top Swiss firms. However, the comparable figure is higher in neighbouring France, Germany and Italy. Scandinavian firms also employ a greater proportion of women in management ranks, up to 29.6% among companies on the Norwegian OBX stock market index.

The Schilling Report takes an upbeat view that the situation is improving in Switzerland. “If this momentum continues, the legally stipulated gender-balanced representation threshold of 20% women on executive boards should be reached by the end of 2030,” it states, referring to legislation passed by parliament in 2019. “Efforts are clearly required by the 42% of companies that do not have any women at their top management.”

Diversifying

The study also finds that women executives in Swiss companies are diversifying from traditional roles in human resources or legal departments into other areas, such as managing company finances.

In the past few years Swiss lawmakers have made efforts to improve gender equality in the workplace. In addition to setting management and boardroom quotas, larger firms are now obliged to publish the distribution of salaries among men and women.

The 16th edition of the Schilling Report surveyed the 119 largest private employers in Switzerland and examined jobs in the federal administration and all 26 cantons. This covered 891 executive board members, 841 supervisory board members, and 1,031 managers in the public sector.

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