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Drive for women in top jobs suffers setback

Legs of businessman and businesswoman sitting at table
For the first time since 2009 the percentage of women in top management positions has decreased Keystone

The percentage of women in top executive positions dropped slightly in Switzerland last year, a report has found.

The annual survey by the Schilling human resource consultancyExternal link shows a 1% drop to 7% in 2017 compared with the previous year.

In 2016, the share of women in company executive positions had risen by 2%, raising hopes of a strong increase over the years to come.

However, the survey found that only 8% of newly appointed top executives in Switzerland’s 118 biggest companies were women, down from 21% the previous year.

Eleven women left top positions in 2017, but only nine women were hired to replace them.

The share of women on company boards increased by 2% to 19% last year, but the authors of the report say the hike is not enough to reach the target of 30% female board members by 2022.

The government has asked parliament to impose a gender quota for boards and managements of listed Swiss companies, but the Senate last week delayed discussion on the proposal.

+ Why the government wants a 30% quota for women on company boards

Despite notable progress over the past 20 years, figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) published on Wednesday showed persistent inequalities between women and men in terms of access to the labour market, unemployment and conditions at work.

Less than half of women (48.5%) participate in the workplace around the world, the ILO found. This compares with 75% of men. The global unemployment rate of women stood at 6% in 2018, compared with 5.2% for men. For every ten men in a job, only six women are employed, the ILO said. Unemployment differences were small between women and men in developed countries. But in Arab states and North Africa, female unemployment was twice as high as men’s with “prevailing social norms continuing to obstruct women’s participation in paid employment”, the ILO said.

Meanwhile, women are more than twice as likely to be in informal work, but are often subject to vulnerable employment conditions without written contracts, respect for labour laws or collective agreements.

The ILO is calling for “radical changes” to combat these persistent inequalities and a focus on unpaid care work, low pay and stopping harassment at work. 


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