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Women on Swiss executive boards jump to 24%

UBS
The financial sector leads the way in terms of women on executive boards. Some 42% of board seats are held by women at UBS. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The proportion of women on the executive boards of the largest listed Swiss companies rose significantly over the last year. This puts the country in sixth place in a European ranking.

Women now represent 24% of positions on the executive boards of the 20 largest companies in the Swiss Market Index (SMI). This is up from 19% in 2021, according to an analysis published on Tuesday by human resources consultant Russell Reynolds Associates. This is the largest increase of any European country over the past twelve months.

Switzerland surpassed Germany and Denmark, putting it in sixth place in a ranking of European countries. The United Kingdom took the top spot with 29% of board positions held by women, followed by Norway, Sweden, Finland and France.

According to the study, companies from the financial sector in particular lead the way in terms of the proportion of women. At UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, women hold 42% of board seats. This is followed by Partners Group, Credit Suisse and Zurich Insurance Group.

The proportion of women on the executive boards of smaller companies is significantly lower. Among the largest mid-cap companies listed on the Swiss stock market, women hold only 14.7% of seats, an increase of 0.8 percentage points from 2021.

In 2019, the Swiss parliament voted in favour of requiring companies to set aside 30% of positions for women on the boards of directors and 20% on executive boards over the next five and ten years, respectively. The reporting requirement on executive boards starts in 2031.

The study also finds that the management boards of Switzerland’s top companies are also becoming more international. Foreigners now account for 73% of executive board positions in the 20 largest companies in the SMI and 55% of the largest mid-cap companies. By comparison, the proportion of foreign managers in the 40 largest companies in the German Stock Index is only 37.5%.

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