| ZURICH, March 7
ZURICH, March 7 Swiss firms from food and
beverage giant Nestle to banking groups UBS
and Credit Suisse pledged new goals on Tuesday to
support and promote women.
While Switzerland has Europe's second-highest proportion of
women in the workforce, it trails global standards on gender
diversity in boardrooms and in management positions.
Consultancies EY, Deloitte and PwC and staffing agency
Adecco all committed to increase female leadership in
their Swiss businesses to between 20 and 35 percent by 2020.
This follows a recent survey by EY which found Swiss firms
with at least 20 percent women in top management rated their
financial situation as better, while studies by UBS have found
companies with greater gender diversity consistently outperform.
Women represent just 6.7 percent of Swiss executives,
according to Credit Suisse, compared to a global average of 13.8
percent and European average of 12.6 percent. They occupy one
out of eight board seats, half the European average.
Swiss women-in-business initiative Advance has spearheaded
the move, with Credit Suisse's domestic business saying it would
strive for equal hiring in campus recruitment, while Nestle
committed to grow the proportion of women in management
positions worldwide every year.
Siemens Switzerland pledged to reach equal pay in
the next three years, while IKEA Switzerland improved its paid
paternity leave to two months.
Switzerland was the second-to-last European country to
embrace women's suffrage in 1971, more than half a century after
Norway, Germany, Canada and the United States. And it took two
decades more for the Swiss supreme court to force one canton to
let women take part in local votes in 1990.
CHANGE THE SYSTEM
IKEA Switzerland head Simona Scarpaleggia, one of
just four female CEOs out of 78 in Credit Suisse's study, helped
found Advance in 2013 and says the Swiss system needs to change
to make things more straightforward for working mothers.
"Either you give up your time — which happens most often —
or you get private support, which is very expensive. It wouldn't
be so complicated to change this system, as many other countries
are doing," Scarpaleggia, who also co-chairs the UN High-Level
Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment, said.
The Swiss government hopes women will help fill a growing
shortfall of skilled labour, but eschews many policies -- like
quotas and more parental leave -- that promote women elsewhere.
It is among the handful of developed countries that give new
fathers no time off, meaning infant care falls largely on women.
High daycare costs mean many new mothers opt out of their
professions or return part-time, generally working part-time
until children reach the age of nine, statistics show.
Many women step off the ladder later in their careers, tired
of being pigeonholed and passed over for promotions.
"Companies are surprised that, if they look at the
statistics, it's often women between 45 and 50 who are leaving,"
Nia Joynson-Romanzina, who left UBS in 2015 to found consultancy
The Advance initiative is seeking to "change Switzerland one
company at a time," Citi Country Officer Kristine Braden said.
"I'm quite optimistic because, despite the conservative
approach, Swiss people are very pragmatic," Scarpaleggia said.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)