More women power in male-dominated Davos

The Swiss foreign minister urged women to "break the glass ceiling" Keystone

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for strong networks of women to boost their position in society.

This content was published on January 29, 2006 - 12:54

She was one of the keynote speakers at a public panel discussion on the theme of "More Women in Top Positions" at the Open Forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

"Women in positions of power often meet subtle resistance, they are considered to be neither proper women nor real men," Calmy-Rey said.

The only Swiss woman cabinet minister said it was telling that her nickname in political circles was "Cruella" (the cruel one).

"Female decision makers are demonised. Women are perceived as an irritating element in the male-dominated order," she told the audience of the Open Forum, an event outside the official World Economic Forum meeting of predominantly male business leaders and government representatives.


Calmy-Rey said this attitude often discouraged young women from aspiring to reach top positions in politics and business.

She added that the fight for women's rights was the result of persistent lobbying by networks of women around the world.

It is a fact that equal opportunities are more established in countries with women quotes, according to Calmy-Rey.

She said Switzerland should consider resuming debate about the introduction of women quotas.

Trivial concerns

The German journalist and author, Alice Schwarzer, criticised what she called the "Barbie-cult" and the "macabre" concerns of the new generation of women in the industrialised world.

"Thank God, young women of today are different from our generation who fought for women's rights.

"But they waste too much time worry about is the wrinkles on their faces, and they suffer from eating disorders," she said.

Schwarzer said the participation of women at all levels of power was a fundamental right and that the women's liberation movement in Europe had made some progress since the 1970s.

But she said she could no longer stand being asked whether women in power did things differently. Women are not less corrupt than men, she said.

"We are no better than men, but we have far fewer opportunities to be corrupt," Schwarzer.

She criticised German politicians who - for weeks - refused to make way for Angela Merkel after winning the parliamentary elections.

Schwarzer concluded that women in power have to work together closely, "otherwise they are lost."

swissinfo, Andreas Keiser in Davos

In brief

The Open Forum was set up by the organisers of the WEF summit in 2002, in response to anti-globalisation protests.

The Open Forum is hosted jointly by the WEF and Switzerland's Protestant Churches in Davos.

The aim of the Open Forum was to give critics of the WEF meeting a platform.

The event is open to the public, while access to the WEF summit is restricted.

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Key facts

Women make up 54% of the Swiss population
Percentage of women on major company boards: 9%
Percentage of women parliamentarians: 26% in the House of Representatives, 23.9% in the Senate.
Percentage of women in cantonal parliaments: 24.9%

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