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Women in power Not enough women in Swiss boardrooms

Switzerland needs more balanced boardrooms and more women in senior roles


Switzerland has one of the lowest proportions of women in senior roles in European companies. According to a survey by Credit Suisse, women make up only 11.3% of Swiss company boards and only 9.1% of senior management positions.

The CS Gender 3,000: Women in Senior Managementexternal link”, a report released on Tuesday by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, evaluated data from more than 3,000 companies and 28,000 senior managers across 40 countries and all major sectors. It found that the percentage of women serving on Swiss boards increased from 9.3% in 2012 to 11.3% in 2013.

However, in terms of board positions, Switzerland still lags behind the rest of Europe, where it is third from last, ahead of Luxembourg (10.8%) and Portugal (6.9%). It is also below the global average of 12.7%. Norway leads Europe and the world, with 39.7% of board positons held by females.

The report also looks at overall female representation in senior management in order to filter out attempts at tokenism and capture the “true” influence of women. Switzerland is the lowest in Europe, with only 9.1% female representation in senior management roles. Once again, this is below the global average, which stands at 12.9%. Thailand (26.5%) is the global leader and Sweden (25.6%) has the highest proportion in Europe.

A breakdown of senior management roles reveals deeper inequalities. As in the rest of the world, Swiss women are shunted away from influential CEO and senior operational roles towards financial and shared services roles in fields like human resources, information technologies, and legal and external relations. In Switzerland, very few  women occupy CEO positions (1.7%) and senior operational roles (6.7%).

The report also states that a company could benefit financially from having women in senior management roles. Companies that have more than 15% women in senior management carry a return on equity (ROE) of 14.7%, compared to 9.7% when women represent less than 10% of top management. In addition, companies where women account for more than 10% of CEO and operations management roles show an ROE of 15.2%, compared to 11.9% when their presence is less than 5%.

The report concludes that either female CEOs make companies better, or better companies hire female CEOs, or both.

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