#PressForProgress lessons from a Swiss story by HBA Suisse Romande

Last November, "The Divine Order" (released in France under the title "Les Conquérantes"), a movie from Swiss filmmaker Petra Volpe was released. It tells the story of women’s mobilization in Switzerland to obtain the right to vote, during a time when women were often inactive professionally, socially vulnerable to religious or bourgeois violence. Finally, they succeed in … 1971.

In 1981, only 10 years after this late democratic advance compared with European neighbors, the Federal Constitution enshrined in Article 8 the principle that women and men are entitled to equal pay for work of equal value. This principle has been confirmed and developed by the 1995 Federal Law on Equality (LEg). It is defended at the cantonal level by various authorities which ensures its application within public or private, swiss or foreign companies. For the Alemanic arc area, it’s the “Conference Romande de l'égalité”, which brings together the cantonal offices for equality between women and men in the seven French-speaking cantons of French-speaking Switzerland (Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neufchatel, Valais, Vaud).

20 years after the LEg, what about gender equality in companies, especially in French-speaking Switzerland?

In 2010, the difference in salary between the sexes is 7.9 percent in the canton of Geneva[1] (against 18.4 percent nationwide) ... while in the canton of Vaud, women executives average 22 percent less than men[2].

At the Confederation level, in 2015, women were only 13.4 percent of Swiss companies boards[3]. And last November, the latest study of the World Economic Forum[4] ranked Switzerland 43rd out of 144 in terms of equal pay for women / men (equal pay for equal work). And still according to the WEF, this gap could persist again during ... 170 years.

Well, still work to be done.

In 2018, what can we learn from "Les Conquérantes" of Petra Volpe, in terms of acting for gender parity?

  1. Press for public policy ... every society change begins with it. Fundamental texts have to hold the principles of parity, both politically and economically, to give then the possibility to implement a regulation ... Public policy remains today a strong guarantee while sometimes economic and social trends may still resist. According to "The Economist" (March 2016), the Swiss labor market is the most discriminatory in Europe, in terms of equality between women and men. It points in particular the traditionalism of representations prevailing in the country and the difficult reconciliation of family and professional responsibilities. Considering the poor childcare offers for a Swiss family[5], you can say improvment is still possible in Switzerland … a clever move to consider for public policy to facilitates work of women and mothers.
  2. Press for discussions and good practices exchanges within companies: as for the heroines of the movie, benchmark and experience sharing is often fruitful ... the role of companies which, through HR policy, must continue their efforts to recognize and promote internal skills, both female and male. In French-speaking Switzerland, the best practices of some major international groups can usefully be shared with local companies or other international networks.
  3. Press for self-empowerment: Finally, equality is a right that belongs to all of us, individually, to conquer, exceeding our prejudices, daring, sometimes putting ourselves in difficult situations. Today, this action also passes by women individual capacity to confront their pairs, to analyse and to identify points of progress for them and within their companies or sector of activity.

And at last, more especially after this world-wide movement encouraging everyone to speak up and asks for actions… #PressforProgress as each one of us can make their environment, their company and society change.

At the HBA, we believe in collaboration, networking and acting for gender parity at all levels of leadership. Everyday, each of us is dedicated to identify, promoting and leveraging gender parity, inclusion and engagement to enhance stakeholder value and business performance.

This International Women's Day, we were in Lausanne for our first Suisse Romande get-together, which will be a networking opportunity to #Pressforprogress. #HBASuisseR

Together, let’s promote the spirit of these Swiss women, “Les Conquérantes” to advance gender parity and women empowerment.

[1] «  Chiffres clés de l’égalité », Bureau de la promotion de l’égalité entre femmes et hommes de Genève, 2012, https://www.ge.ch/egalite/doc/statistiques/chiffres-cles-brochure.pdf
[2] Bureau de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, Canton de Vaud, https://www.vd.ch/themes/etat-droit-finances/egalite/egalite-entre-les-femmes-et-les-hommes/vie-professionnelle/inegalites-salariales-et-pistes-daction/
[3] « La parité est encore loin dans les conseils d’administration suisses », Bilan, octobre 2016 http://www.bilan.ch/economie/parite-loin-conseils-dadministration-suisses
[4] 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/
[5] Read this analysis from RTS, in 2016, to have a quick overview https://www.rts.ch/info/regions/7329464-pas-de-place-en-creche-les-nonnas-et-les-nounous-sont-fideles-au-poste.html