Gender diversity among top executives hits record

Switzerland is in danger of lagging behind other Western European countries when it comes to boardroom equality, according to the report AFP

More than a fifth of all new executive board members in Switzerland are women – a record after ten years of “standing still”, according to an annual report. In addition, the number of foreigners on Swiss executive boards has reached 45%.

This content was published on March 7, 2017,

Swiss companies have succeeded in filling significantly more vacant executive board seats with women, concluded a report published on Tuesday by the Swiss executive head-hunter Guido SchillingExternal link.

The share of women on the executive boards of Switzerland’s 100 largest companies has jumped from 6% to 8%, rising in one year as much as in the previous ten years combined, according to the 2017 Schilling report entitled “Transparency at the Top”.

Women also represented 21% of all new executive board members, up from just 4% in the previous year.

“Since the implementation of gender diversity essentially depends on society, it is important for the next generation to have female role models to follow. It must become a matter of course for both women and men to have a career,” Schilling said in the report.

Slow path to senior management

Woman hold 19% of management positions at medium-sized companies in Switzerland, according to consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY). The figure was 17% two years ago. In a release published on TuesdayExternal link, EY reported that there were more women on boards in French-speaking than in German-speaking Switzerland. Type of industry and overall success of the company also play a role. “Successful companies are more likely to support the advancement of women, with 30% of them saying they do so, compared to only 15% of less successful companies,” noted the EY statement.

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30% target

Nevertheless, the report described Switzerland’s improving situation as still insufficient to raise the proportion of women over the long term to the politically demanded 30% level.

Switzerland is in danger of lagging behind other Western European countries, some of which have significantly higher percentages of women in these posts, the report warned, adding that Swiss companies must set ambitious goals.

Publicly held German companies have been required since January 2016 to maintain a quota of women on their boards of directors. A comparison of Germany’s largest companies to Switzerland’s shows that the share of women on DAX supervisory boards is 30%, while this figure on SMI supervisory boards is 21%.

However, the German quota law has not significantly affected executive boards. The share of women on the executive boards of the 30 DAX companies increased from 9% to 10% over the past year, while the number on SMI boards has increased from 6% to 8%.

Foreign executives

The report noted that the share of foreigners on executive boards increased from 43% to 45% in the past few years.

There has been a significant increase in the number of Germans (seven more members) and Americans (six more), while the number of Swiss members dropped by 12, and the number of British members fell by three.

“There are not enough Swiss executives to optimally cover all of the seats on the executive boards,” Schilling said. “It will always be important to find the best-qualified candidates, whether Swiss or foreign, to ensure the sustainable growth of Switzerland’s largest employers. Therefore, the primary focus should not be on nationality.” 

Schilling Report 2017

The 2017 report surveys the 119 largest employers in Switzerland, as well as the federal administration and 26 cantons.

Accordingly, 891 executive board members, 833 supervisory board members, and 1013 executive managers in the public sector (state chancellors, general secretaries, department heads) were included in the survey.

For the survey of the gender diversity pipeline, the 250 most important Swiss companies were queried, of which 92 currently make their statistics available.

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