Bank lures women back into the workplace
Women wishing to return to the workplace after a career break are being targeted by a pioneer scheme at the Vaud Cantonal Bank (BCV).
The aim is to boost the number of women among its managerial ranks by offering training to a select few to become customer advisers in retail banking.
The scheme, which is now in its third year, has been continuously oversubscribed, proving that the bank is onto a good thing.
It's a win-win situation - the bank wants to have more women on its staff and successful applicants receive training and a job if they pass the course.
"We were looking for customer advisers and wanted to train them in a year even if they didn't have experience in banking, says Laure Guido from the BCV's human resources department.
"We thought women who perhaps left the professional area for a few years and wanted to come back to a career could be interested," she told swissinfo.
The bank specifically wanted women from 35 to 50 years old, including mothers on a sabbatical or those who had put their own career on the backburner for their husband's.
Also important was a good level of education, although not necessarily a university diploma.
Out of the hundreds that apply every year to join the course, only ten will be chosen. These women are then put through their paces over 12 months, where they learn all they need to know to become a retail-banking adviser at the BCV.
"At the beginning, the course is geared to someone who knows little about banking. It then covers the commercial policies at the BCV in a second phase. This is followed by immersion into the working world," said Christian Donzé, head of professional training at the BCV.
Florence Chavy is a 33-year-old mother of two, who started the course last year. She testifies that learning the ropes has been interesting and challenging at the same time.
She spends four days a week training, which she says is a mixture of practice and theory.
"I am very busy. There is a lot to learn, especially about the products but I really like advising people," Chavy told swissinfo.
She added that she has "a lot of juggling to do with the family but at the moment it's easier because the children are not yet in school."
Chantal Müller was among the first batch of graduates of the inaugural course, which began in 2006. At the time, she was delighted to be chosen as she had had a tough time returning to work after her three children were old enough.
She had worked in banking in her native France but had given up her career to follow her husband to Poland. They came to Switzerland in 2003 and she was shocked at how hard it was to find a suitable job for herself.
"I started looking for a job in a bank but just got rejected. Trying to find a job when you have kids in Switzerland is difficult," Müller told swissinfo.
After passing the BCV course, she took up a position as a customer adviser in the Lausanne area.
But Müller belongs to one of the higher-flying alumni. Just a month after qualifying as a customer adviser, she was promoted to manager. Today, she is in charge of a small team of advisers in a branch near the lake in Lausanne.
Müller says she is happy to be back at work after a long hiatus and is managing the dual challenges of family and corporate life. When she's not working four days at the bank, she is with her three daughters (aged six to ten) and her husband.
The latter, incidentally, is Müller's "gem"; he put his career on hold so that she could train with the BCV.
"My husband cooks, looks after the children, does the housework and helps with everything!" Müller says.
swissinfo, Faryal Mirza in Lausanne
The scheme trains ten women a year to become customer advisers in retail banking with the BCV.
Participants are on a salary during training and are guaranteed a job at the end of the course if they pass.
Since the course started in 2006, more than 600 women have applied.
The government has given the green light for a series of trials to promote women's professional careers as part of equal opportunity legislation.
The project, to be launched next year, is aimed at encouraging companies to fight discrimination of women at the workplace and put salaries on a par with men's.
Until now, only non-profit organisations and institutions were eligible for financial incentives from the federal authorities.
A recent study by the Federal Statistics Office said that women are still underrepresented in managerial positions and many of them earn lower salaries than men in the same jobs.
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