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Walking the boards Women increase presence in boardrooms

Going up? More and more women are sitting in Swiss boardrooms

(Keystone)

Almost a third of vacant seats in blue-chip boardrooms in Switzerland were filled by a woman last year, boosting their overall ratio to 14 per cent, according to a report by recruitment firm Guido Schilling on Monday.

The eighth such report said that up until now women had been “seriously underrepresented” in management positions in Switzerland, where women didn’t get the vote until 1971, but “finally, the situation appears to be changing”.

Particular progress had been made, it said, among the 20 companies on the Swiss Market Index (SMI), where last year 30 per cent of empty boardroom seats were filled by a woman, up from 18 per cent in 2011.

The Schilling Report analysed the 119 largest Swiss firms by staff numbers. The total proportion of women in boardrooms rose from 11 to 12 per cent, with almost one in four (23 per cent) positions held by women.

In these 119 companies, the number of women in top management positions also rose, from five to six per cent. Thirty-four per cent of companies had a woman in a top management position, up from 29 per cent the previous year.

Fifty-eight per cent of companies had at least one woman on the board, up from 55 per cent in 2011.

Nevertheless, male bastions remained. Companies without any women on the board These include Glencore, Xstrata, OC Oerlikon, Tamedia and Kühne & Nagel.

Successful debate

Claudine Esseiva, general-secretary of the women’s section of the centre-right Radical Party, welcomed this advance.

“It proves that the equal opportunities debate, which has expanded over the past two years, has changed the situation and is having an effect on old structures,” she said.

Although Esseiva believes 30 per cent of boardroom seats – instead of the current 14 per cent – would be an “adequate” number, she admits that the trend is “heading towards greater representation”.

What’s more, she adds, the increase “proves that there are women capable of filling these positions – contrary to what some people say”.

She acknowledges, however, that “social issues were still lagging behind in Switzerland” pointing to Germany, where 20 per cent were on boards last year.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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