Slight increase in women in top management

Women are better represented in the public sector than in private companies. Keystone / Martin Ruetschi

Female representation in top management positions in Switzerland rose slightly last year, though the figures still lag behind other European countries.

This content was published on March 7, 2019

According to an annual report released ThursdayExternal link by the Schilling human resource consultancy firm, the proportion of women in senior management roles in the top 117 employers in Switzerland rose from 7% to 9% in 2018.

After a setback the previous year, when a 1% decline was recorded, this brings women’s representation in senior leadership at companies to the highest level it has ever been, Schilling said.

This means more than twice as many women sit at the highest level than in 2006, although progress is slow: at current rates, by 2022 just 12% of company senior executive roles will be filled by women.

Women are also less likely to remain in top positions for a significant period, the report says. On average, they step back or move on after 3.6 years, while for men the time period is 6.7 years.

One reason for this, Schilling suggested, is that women are more likely to take leadership roles of ‘service’ departments in corporations – for example, communications, legal, or compliance departments; roles that are not systematically represented in top management.

The public sector, on the other hand, was much better balanced when it came to female representation. Some 38% of vacant top positions were filled by women, compared with 18% in the private sector.

This is primarily due to the better work-life balance offered by public roles, said Schilling, who urged private companies to follow suit in adapting their polices and practices.

Internationally, despite the improvement, Switzerland still lags behind front-runners for gender equality in Europe such as Sweden or Finland, where women represent around 35% of board of director positions.

The report analyses the 117 largest employers in Switzerland as well as the federal government and all 26 cantons.

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