Gender balance in recruitment and retention at Swiss companies has improved but men still account for the majority of promotions to top management positions according to a study on gender equality in the workplace in Switzerland.
The third edition of the Gender Intelligence Reportexternal link published by the business association Advance and the University of St Gallen on Wednesday aims to shed light on what works when it comes to supporting women’s advancement and gender equality. The study analysed human resources data including gender distribution at hierarchical levels of 263,000 employees at 55 companies.
The study revealed that there are fewer women the higher up the management chain you go. There is a 50-50 gender balance in non-management positions whereas only 18% of top managers are women.
However, the report notes that women’s representation at all management levels is close to reaching the critical barrier of 30% where they can influence organizational culture. This is an indication that the female talent pipeline is increasing.
Another positive trend according to the report, is higher recruitment of women, especially in management positions. Women represent 35% of new hires compared to 28% of employees. The difference is even greater in upper management where 32% of new hires are women compared to 22% already employed.
Retention rates of men and women are also fairly equal at all levels of companies, including in management, which the report attributes to more inclusive work cultures.
One of the greatest gender gaps is in promotion. Although 42% of the total workforce in the sample is female, only 36% of promotions go to women, which means that men make up 64% of all promotions. Only 40% of promotions to management positions are awarded to women.
Hurdles to overcome
The study points to a few issues hindering women’s advancement including unconscious bias and opaque promotion processes. The authors suggest that there should be at least two women on the decision committee for promotions and short lists of candidates should be 50:50 gender balanced.
"It is important to make existing promotion processes more transparent and promotion decisions not exclusively dependent on the person directly in front of them,” highlighted Dr. Gudrun Sander, head of the Competence Center for Diversity & Inclusion at the University of St Gallen in a press release. “In addition, managers must actively help female talents to achieve greater visibility and attention and conduct regular career discussions."
Another key hurdle noted in the report is the traditional male-female roles in society combined with the expectation of full-time work in management positions. While female employment is high in the country, many women work part-time. Under the prevailing full-time model, the report calls for more flexible work models for women to be able to increase employment chances and to qualify for executive positions.