The Alpine nation placed second after Norway in a ranking that covers 167 countries and weighs variables such as employment, security and political representation.
The researchers behind the Women, Peace and Security Indexexternal link published on Tuesday found that Switzerland fared well in the area of security, as Swiss women reported feeling safe in public and the country registered low rates of intimate partner violence.
The country also scored highly for women’s access to bank accounts but did less well in terms of women’s rate of employment, which dropped by almost two percentage points (to 58.9%) from its score in 2017, when the index was first published.
According to the organisations behind the study – Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute Oslo – the ranking draws on international data sources to measure women’s wellbeing and empowerment in the home, community and society more broadly. It focuses on three core areas: inclusion, justice and security.
Besides Norway and Switzerland, a number of other European countries were among the best performers on the index. At the other end of the scale, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria performed the worst.
The authors concluded that, globally, deterioration in women's lives was often linked to security, which worsened in almost 50 countries. But gains were also made, particularly in women’s access to financial services, fewer discriminatory laws and increased legislative representation.
"A national election can bring about big changes, both positive and negative," lead author Jeni Klugman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have a number of countries which boosted the share of women in their national legislatures. We also had several countries which went the other way."
Switzerland got an average score for women’s share of parliament in the 2019 index, a note on which it is likely to improve at the next update. Last Sunday’s federal elections propelled a record 84 women to the House of Representatives, bringing their share of the chamber to 42%.The historic results followed an eventful summer that saw tens of thousands of women across the country take to the streets in a national strike to demand equal treatment.
The country has not fared as well in other indices that look at women in corporate leadership and the gender pay gap. In the 2018 World Economic Forum Gender Gap report, Switzerland came in 20th place, jumping ahead one spot from the previous year.