IWD 2019 - Gender Equality Means Business

When: March 8 2019

Where: Zurich, Switzerland


For the third time already, we are mobilizing for CEO commitments to concrete measures driving equal opportunities & gender equality in the workplace and beyond. We look forward to your participation! Companies which have committed in previous years are cordially invited to renew their pledge and enrich it with a progress note. We are convinced that there are many great measures already in place and planned for 2019. This campaign offers you a platform to make them visible and inspire others. All commitments will go live on International Women's Day 2019, on March 8, and will be celebrated at our event in collaboration with the University of Zurich. Our 2019 theme is: "Women & Men Together - Unleash the Full Potential". Together we can achieve so much more.

Swiss businesses are working towards achieving gender equality. With each year, there is progress, while not in big leaps, every step counts. Progress is also attributed to the steady efforts of the Advance initiative and impressive examples from some of the world’s largest companies: Sandoz Switzerland, for instance, employs 66% women overall and 50% in management. At Biogen Switzerland a quarter of all its managers are female. Gender parity also prevails at IKEA Switzerland. At tomorrow’s International Women’s Day, more than 60 CEOs and opinion leaders have publicly committed to specific courses of action, and are supported by 15 business networks.

Advance is a leading Swiss organisation working to actively increase the number of women in management. Companies that take efforts to systematically integrate talented women can only benefit.  The business case is clear: such companies are more innovative, productive, and profitable. The topic of gender, however, is not the only focus. The discussion surrounding work-family balance, for example, also requires having the men on board as family has long since ceased to be a women-only domain. True gender parity means an equal distribution of responsibilities in all spheres of life.

Positive pressure in the business world

The number of female members on executive and supervisory boards is increasing each year in Switzerland – albeit slowly, as is reflected in the Schilling Report 2018, published yesterday. ‘This is why our initiative is so important,’ says Alkistis Petropaki. The General Manager at Advance sees positive progress: ‘We notice that culture, mentalities, and work structures are moving in the right direction every year. Our strong growth is also worth noting: our business network already has over 75 member companies. They are leading by example, which results in positive pressure on the whole business world.’

The solution: structural changes, voluntary “quotas” and targeted advancement programs

Many leading organisations take their responsibility seriously: they have recognized the advantages of mixed teams and are not waiting for “quotas” to be imposed. They take action voluntarily and announce them publicly on 8 March – with various approaches:

Novartis across divisions with Sandoz in particular focus on flexibility at work for both genders.  Company support in managing the demands and priorities of career and personal life, enabling every associate to be their best self and realize their full potential, e.g. through the possibility for more time off and part-time positions - without being career killers - as well as the implementation of systematic job postings with 80-100% flexibility and job-share option, serve as strong talent levers. EY also offers flexible work models and an inclusive, open culture. The goal is to reach at least 25% female partners by 2020. For 2018, Citi developed transparency metrics for the hiring, advancement and retention of female employees on all levels. And IKEA Switzerland announces the launch of a programme aimed at facilitating the return to work after maternity leave. Mothers on maternity can be kept up to date on workplace developments during their absence and can participate in optional trainings during extended maternity leave. A three day onboarding upon their return additionally facilitates their re-entry to professional work life.

Voluntary, self-imposed “quotas” are another avenue: Biogen wants to increase the number of female managers to at least 40% by 2020. At the Luterbach site, 35% of all employees across all functions are female. Accenture has set out to reach a ratio of at least 30:70 in leadership positions by 2021; Deloitte is aiming for 30% by 2020 and Adecco 35%. PwC is working towards achieving at least 20% female partners within the same timeframe. Some companies have already met their intermediate targets: in 2017, more than 40% of board hires by Egon Zehnder were female; at McKinsey, almost 50% of recruitees over the last two years are women.


  • Friday, 8th March 2019


  • Unversity of Zurich


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