Swiss company leadership & the gender divide (2008-2018)

PwC supports major new Business-Monitor survey of all registered Swiss companies revealing true extent of gender inequality

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, PwC has joined forces with data insight company Business-Monitor to launch a major new gender parity analysis of all companies registered in Switzerland, designed to show the true state of gender inequality in this country. Drawing on state-of-the-art research, intelligence and data analytics technologies, it dispels some of the speculation to give a much more accurate snapshot of the status quo than was previously possible.

Sobering, but differentiated, findings
While some of the findings are sobering – in many cases confirming the generally slow pace of progress towards gender parity in Swiss business – the study also provides some intriguing new insights which the initiators hope will stimulate a much broader and informed conversation going forward. Particularly valuable is the granularity of the study, which yields a very differentiated picture: findings are broken down by type of company (limited company, limited liability company and sole proprietorship); by industry; by hierarchical level of executive and non-executive roles; and by canton and language region.

Despite the fact that the Swiss constitution itself prohibits any type of discrimination based on gender, and various legal measures have been implemented to foster equality at the workplace, the study suggests that current efforts are not enough. This report aims to make a constructive contribution by providing more detailed and objective insights, shedding light on some challenges that have gone unnoticed, and provoking thought and discussion of the issues.

Food for thought
First, some stark facts reported in the study emerging from the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index:

  • Switzerland has fallen ten places to 21st in the latest ranking
  • Top countries in the ranking are making progress, but Switzerland has flatlined in terms of gender equality
  • Switzerland ranks only 43rd globally in terms of the proportion of leadership roles held by women (just 35.6%)

Inverse gender relations
Do you see a pattern?

Select study findings confirming existing perceptions:

  • The glass ceiling is still a reality at both executive and non-executive (director) levels – even in industries where women are better represented overall.
  • It’s easier for a woman to become a decision-maker in some industries than in others.
  • At the current rate it will take decades to achieve the goal of parity at decision-maker level.

Some new insights:

  • There is less gender diversity at top management levels in newly created companies than at established organisations.
  •  The proportion of female partners across all limited liability companies in Switzerland has declined steadily since 2008 – a worrying and completely unexpected observation. Simply put, it’s less common for women to start a business than it is for men.
  • Women are better represented at the decision-making level than in the general workforce in some traditionally ‘masculine’ industries such as the primary and construction sectors.

What next?
The author, Florent Schläppi, invites anyone interested in this subject to reach out to him for further discussion of the insights. Together with his co-authors from PwC, we hope that the important questions raised by Business-Monitor data will lead to further discoveries.

Some of the questions worth considering:

  • What’s behind the differences in gender parity between cantons and language areas?
  • How can the decline in women partners be reversed?
  • How can companies develop a culture supporting part-time work for both women and men and promote greater female boardroom presence?
  • Ultimately, how can we make a mentality of ‘think manager, think male’ a thing of the past?

Check out the full Swiss company leadership & the gender divide (2008-2018) report and contact Business-Monitor or us to continue the discussion. Let’s make International Women’s Day the start of something new!

Published by

Sue Johnson

Sue Johnson

Sue Johnson
Avenue Giuseppe-Motta 50
Case postale, 1211 Genève 2
+41 58 792 90 98

Sue Johnson is leading the Inclusion and Diversity HR Consulting stream at PwC Switzerland. She is working with clients to implement leading-edge solutions on how to be more inclusive to all to drive business performance. She has more than 20 years experience in cultural change and project management, beginning her career in Operations.