An article published by RTS presents data that shows men outnumber women among the leaders of 20 of Switzerland’s 26 largest state affiliated companies.
Like in much of the developed world politicians in Switzerland are pushing to get more women into top spots. Switzerland’s Federal Council has said it aims to have 40% of leadership positions in state affiliated companies filled by women before 2023. Currently, this objective looks out of reach.
Out of the 26 companies in the RTS list there are 5 where women dominate. For example, at BGRB Holding SA, the holding company of RUAG, 80% of the leaders are women. One company, the Swiss National Museum, has a perfect 50/50 split between men and women in its leadership team. The other 20 companies have more men than women among their leadership. The leadership of RUAG International Holding SA at 80% is the most male dominated company. RUAG is Switzerland’s largest defence manufacturer.
Other companies with more than 50% men in their leadership include Swissmedic – Switzerland’s drug regulator (71.4% men), Swiss Tourism (69.2% men), PUBLICA – federal government pension fund (68.7%), Suva – Switzerland’s largest accident insurer (67.5%), SERV – export insurance (66.7%), Swiss Post SA (66.7%), Swiss Rail (66.7%), SRG SSR – Switzerland’s state broadcaster (66.7%) and FINMA – Switzerland’s financial regulator (64.7% men).
According to Anne-Marie De Andrea, a spokesperson for state staffing, there are many companies on the list with a highly technical focus. This could be the reason why there are so many men in these companies, she said.
However, some politicians want to see the 40% objective met. Sandra Locher Benguerel, a federal parliamentarian and member of the Socialist Party said that these companies must be made to face their responsibilities. They must justify why they have not achieved the 40% objective.
When aiming for any result it is important to look at the steps required to get there. Long before recruitment decisions are made children choose subjects at school that shape their choices at university and in turn the degrees they graduate with and their career path.
Studies across the world typically show significant gender differences in subject choice at the tertiary level of education. One UK study shows that women enrol in medical (3.8 times women to men) and veterinary (3.5 times women to men) subjects at a rate close to four times that of men. While subjects such as mathematics (1.7 times men to women), engineering (4.2 times men to women) and computer science (4.5 times men to women) are dominated by men. This means an average medical sector recruiter is going to receive around 8 female CVs for every 2 male ones and a computer science recruiter is on average going to receive 9 male CVs for every 2 female ones. Given these graduate gender imbalances, aiming for 50/50 gender recruitment ratios could disadvantage women who chose medicine and veterinary subjects and disadvantage men who graduate with mathematics, engineering and computer science degrees. Instead if eliminating gender discrimination, a blind focus on 50/50 employment ratios may just changing the shape of it.