Women still struggling to enter Swiss boardrooms

There is not a single woman at CEO level in the SMI Swiss stock exchange © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Despite quota targets, women remain underrepresented in executive positions of top Swiss companies by international comparison, according to a study.

This content was published on March 2, 2021 - 11:51

The proportion of women on the executive floors of the 20 blue-chip companies on the SMI (Swiss Market Index) stock exchange is 13%. The comparable figure is higher in Scandinavia, as well as in neighbouring France, Germany and Italy.

At 29.6%, it is highest in the companies on the Norwegian OBX index, according to a survey by recruitment consultants Russell Reynolds published on Tuesday.

Since this year there has been a government target for at least 30% of the board of directors and at least 20% of the executive board of listed companies in Switzerland to be women. If these benchmarks are not met, the company is obliged to state the reasons in its annual report and to present measures for improvement.

Could take years

However, this reporting obligation does not begin for executive boards until 2031. If things continue at the current pace, it’s likely to be tight: it would take 20 years for every single SMI company to reach the 20% quota at the current rate of change, according to the Russell Reynolds report.

This is because it would require 21 more women to join management boards than today. But in the past year only one woman has joined. Five female CEOs are new to the management of SMI companies, but four women left.

Seventeen of the female top managers of SMI companies hold a central function such as human resources or legal, six are heads of divisions or geographic regions and one is chief financial officer. There is not a single woman at CEO level in the SMI.

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