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Equality still elusive for Swiss women

Swiss women have a way to go before being treated equally in the workplace Keystone Archive

Women in Switzerland still lag behind men in education, career opportunities and pay, as well as political influence.

That is the conclusion of a government report being prepared for the United Nations.

The report, written by the Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men, shows that legislative and judicial reforms have helped reduce Switzerland’s long-standing sexual inequalities in recent years.

However the report warns the improvements have done little to change the lives of women, who still struggle to secure good jobs, higher wages and authority.

The report is the first of its kind in Switzerland and part of a national commitment to keeping the UN informed about the status of Swiss women.

New statistics

The revelations come as new statistics paint a bleak picture of the number of women working in some of the nations’ most lucrative industries.

In research and development, women hold only one in five of the current 41,350 jobs, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

The inequality is also stark within Switzerland’s massive pharmaceutical and chemical industries, where women hold just 36 percent of current positions.

The figures have prompted large investment funds to encourage more female participation in high-level research by broadening access rules for research grants.

Next month, a two-year trial begins that abolishes age limits on women applying for stipends, which in the past have been described as restrictive.

Political power, unpaid work

The government’s equality report, which was adopted by the Federal Cabinet on Wednesday and released on Thursday, also details the state of women’s professional and health equality.

It shows women are failing to enjoy the same level of career options as men, and that they do more of the nation’s unpaid work.

And while many female politicians hold high profile posts, women remain by-and-large underrepresented in positions of real political power.

The report’s authors hope the document will trigger a new round of objective debate on gender equality in Switzerland.

It draws on contributions from government departments, as well as cantonal authorities.

Switzerland outlawed all forms of sexual discrimination in 1997, and agreed to furnish the UN with regular updates on its internal situation. This is the first such report.

In the coming months, the draft will be reviewed by independent experts, and will be open to public comment.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR