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Girls take steps towards jobs for the boys

Swiss girls are being encouraged to consider a wider choice of career

(Keystone Archive)

Thursday marks the second annual Take Your Daughter to Work Day in Switzerland.

The aim of the event is to open up new professional horizons to girls aged between 10 and 15, by giving them the chance to follow their fathers at work.

Fathers are encouraged to take their daughters to work because the scheme aims to introduce girls to the more traditionally male-dominated professions.

If father is not available, girls can choose to spend the day with their mothers or other relatives or friends.

The event is being organised countrywide by the Swiss equality office and has already aroused great interest - over 12,000 have signed up for this year, compared with 2,000 the year before.

Mum or Dad?

Helgard Christen, one of the organisers of Take Your Daughter to Work Day, explained that girls got a lot out of a day with either Dad or Mum at work.

"We hope that we can encourage girls to choose a vocation without gender bias. While sharing a working day with her father, a girl experiences that so called non-typical occupations or positions can easily obtained by women," Christen told swissinfo.

"When a girl shares a working day with her mother, she sees her outside the context of household and family duties. On the one hand she experiences that her mother has professional competences, and on the other hand she gets a taste of the double role as well as the double strain on her mother."

Christen believes that a Daughters Day is necessary because many girls still choose the so-called feminine jobs such as working in an office.

She says this choice stems from the fact that many young women do not envisage having a long professional career and rather see their role as housewife and mother.

Jobs for the girls

"Girls discriminate themselves. In Switzerland, they still chose their vocational training stereotypically. About 70 per cent of all young women in vocational training work in offices, in hospitals, as hairdressers or as sales women.

"Few girls look forward to a lifelong professional career for themselves, but statistically more than 50 per cent of women who have given birth to their first child go on working, so it is very important that girls develop the perspective of lifelong professional career as well as the perspective of financial independence," added Christen.

According to Christen, this tendency towards "women's jobs" stems from the early age, 16, at which girls have to choose their vocational training.

"In this phase of their lives girls tend to have a low self esteem and little self confidence, so more girls tend to orient their career towards their future role as housewives and mothers," she told swissinfo.

Inequality at work

Discrimination in the workplace remains a problem too even though there has been significant progress towards equal opportunities in Switzerland over the last few decades.

In the private sector, men's salaries are on average 20 per cent higher than those of women. That's a disparity which should no longer exist since the 1981 constitutional law for "an equal salary for the same job" was amended in 1996 by the sexual equality law.

"The reasons for this are to be found above all in the fact that women have different jobs from men and have different positions within the same companies, " said Maria Roth-Bernasconi, in charge of the project in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Men still have to face fewer obstacles in their careers - four fifths of managerial posts go to men. Women, due to social conditioning or family reasons, tend towards less prestigious and well-paid jobs - a phenomenon that has hardly changed over the past 20 years.

Social pressures

Social pressures also play their part.

"Quite often girls do not dare to try out a so-called man's job because they are afraid being different and being made fun of by their friends," explained Monika Litchtsteiner, of the Bern office.

Daughters day believes that girls should be open to a large choice of professions.

"It's understandable if there are few women builders, but there's no reason why only ten per cent of all computer programmers are women," Roth-Bernasconi told swissinfo.

The organisers believe that a change in attitudes in Switzerland is still needed before any more progress can be made. They are also calling for more favourable conditions for women at work.

Swiss family policy, including maternity leave and the provision of crèches, is still not as advanced as in neighbouring countries.

But for now, the Take Your Daughter to Work Day can only be seen as a step in the right direction.

swissinfo, Isobel Johnson and Armando Mombelli

In brief

The event is being organised countrywide by the Swiss equality office and has already aroused great interest - over 12,000 have signed up for this year, compared with 2,000 the year before.

Organisers say many girls do not see themselves having a long professional career and tend to regard their role as a housewife and mother.

Discrimination in the workplace is still a problem in Switzerland despite progress towards equal opportunities over the last few decades.

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